At first glance, Paul Rodriguez’s new company doesn’t look like anything too far from the norm. With a small team and board graphics that look somewhat similar to the old Plan B stuff, skaters might think it’s just more of the same. Honestly, I did too, until I had a chance to give Paul a ring and find out more about it. That’s where I started to understand that he’s not just creating another old board brand, but is experimenting with the skateboard company model. In 2014, when everything is a brand and the pro skaters have more Instagram followers than the biggest magazines and companies within skateboarding combined, the old rules don’t apply anymore.
You just left Plan B to start your own brand, Primitive Skateboards. How did you break it off?
You know, I’ll admit I didn’t break it off as classy as I should have. I was genuinely nervous about it because I had such a great relationship with those guys. I should have waited till I got home and sat down with them in person. I was in Europe for X-games and I wasn’t riding a Plan B board during the contest. Colin McKay called me and was like, “Hey man, what’s going on?” and right then and there I was like fuck, I’m just gonna do it now over the phone. I was gonna come up with an excuse, but it was like you know what, I owe it to this guy, to just tell him that I was going to step away. I’m not super proud of that, but since then I’ve talked to Colin and Danny and hopefully smoothed it out. I’ve seen Danny recently, it was all good. It’s all love.
You made 100 boards for your brand launch. I heard they sold out pretty quickly right?
Yeah, they sold out in 49 seconds. It actually crashed The Berrics’ site and an extra 50 were sold, so we made 50 more to make sure everyone who bought a board got one.
You’ve mentioned that Primitive Skateboards is going to be different because you will give more board royalties to your riders than traditional skateboard companies. How does that work? What’s the normal industry standard?
The industry standard is that a company pays you a minimum every month, which is an advance on your board royalties. With boards, the average guy gets $2 a board. And if you don’t sell as many boards as they have paid you already in advance, then you’ll never see anything above that minimum payment you get per month.
So with your new company, why is it an advantage to give your riders a higher percentage of royalties?
To be honest I don’t actually know if it will be advantageous for my company or not. But I’m a skater, I’m not just on the business end of it. I know how it is to put your heart into it. The way I want it to be is, if your name is on a product, then I want you to earn the lion’s share of the profit on that product. So it’s almost the other way around, my company will be getting a royalty, off of the rider. I also would like to help the riders be able to make a comfortable living and have some ownership of themselves. I wanna leave my mark in skateboarding of course for what I’ve done on the board. But if I can, I’d love to leave a mark and help make skateboarding something that many riders can live comfortably off of, instead of just a certain few.
So in a way, your riders [Nick Tucker & Carlos Ribeiro] are kind of their own brands within your company. You are like the distribution, right?
Yeah, exactly. That’s really been the goal. They can be as hands-on or hands-off as they want to. If they really want to be in there dictating their graphics and all that, they are more than welcome to. That’s why we are not just paying them a base salary. It’s like look, anything with your name on it, you’re gonna reap the most benefits off of it. Of course our brand itself has operating costs, so we will need a small share but it’s heavily skewed to benefit the rider. We’ve gone over it time and time again with our accountants and stuff like that, and on paper it seems like it can work, so we’re just praying and hoping that it does.
You are a skateboard company owner now and also religious. Jamie Thomas is another company owner who is also religious and has put religious icons on some of his Zero boards and products. Would you ever consider doing anything like that?
Yes and no. For me, I wouldn’t say I’m religious. I’m not preaching to anyone, saying you have to live like this or not because personally I am no angel or saint. I have a strong belief in a higher power and that’s kind of where I stand. I don’t claim I’m this or that religion, but in my mind, it’s obvious there is a higher power. I feel like a lot of events in my life have proven that to me. I’m not here to force that on anyone. I do happen to believe that Jesus was a incredible being who was touched in a huge spiritual way. I’m not against making spiritual graphics, but that’s not my theme. I do have a little weirdness about it, like is it weird if I put out a board with a religious symbol on it? Am I trying to capitalize off of religion or God? I don’t know how I feel about that.
You have a huge personal social media following, bigger than many brands and magazines in skateboarding.
Do you think magazines are becoming obsolete because you can directly reach your fans now without them?
I don’t know if I make a magazine obsolete, I think just the technology itself, yes, is damaging print, for sure. I think that’s not only in the skate industry, that’s every industry. I’m sure GQ magazine has taken a hit because of social media. Recently the record industry had to do the same thing. They took a hit with Mp3s and online digital downloading and bootlegging. But now they are learning to adapt and the same thing is going on now with social media. You see the companies adapting to it like Thrasher Magazine. They’re one of the leading brands along with The Berrics as far as the most dominating sites / media outlets in skateboarding. Not only that, but with companies like The Skateboard Mag and Thrasher, I’ve been in skateboarding long enough, I got love for those guys. I have no problem with cross promoting through different channels.
The new promo you released had lots of new footage of you skating in it. How long were you sitting on those clips?
Those clips were 2 or 3 years old. They were all clips from when I was filming for the new Plan B video. I actually had a bunch more but I just felt like it had been so long and I didn’t feel like a lot of it was up to par. I just picked my choice tricks that I felt still proud of and good about. That’s another thing with the internet these days, you have to put shit out quick man. You can’t sit on it too long or it becomes obsolete.
When you leave Plan B, how does it work with the ownership of your footage? Couldn’t they hold it and say it’s Plan B footage for the video, or is there something you agreed upon before?
Well fortunately for me, everything I filmed was with my own personal filmer, so I already owned the footage. Plan B does have staff filmers, but I already had my own personal filmer before that. Even though I didn’t see it at the time, it worked in my favor. That wasn’t some big master plan, I had no clue when I was hiring my guy, that I was gonna end up leaving Plan B and starting my own thing, I was just lucky.
When you are in Street League and you do that prayer in your hat before you do a trick, is that a mantra? Do you say something different each time?
I say the same thing every time. It’s prayer for sure, but it’s also a OCD thing. The more nervous I get, the more intense I feel like I have to do it. It’s similar to like in the NBA, when a basketball player does free throws and he has to dribble the ball, spin it around, dribble again, then shoot. It’s the same type of ritual. When I’m skating at the park or on the streets, it will start happening. A lot of times I won’t even notice or think about it. I’ve been doing that since I was a little little kid. To me it’s just automatic.
You have many outside sponsors (Target, AT&T, Mountain Dew). Do you draw the line anywhere with outside sponsors? Would you take on a beer company or tobacco company?
Well, I am involved with a beer company. It’s not a sponsor of mine, I’m one of the founders. There are limits man. I don’t involve myself with something that I personally don’t enjoy or do. For instance, Mountain Dew, I really do enjoy the soda. Anyone that’s drinking it, I’m pretty sure knows it’s pretty damn good, you know? I’m not an out of control drunk or crazy man, but I enjoy the responsible beer. I don’t know if I’d do a tobacco sponsor or something like that, but I enjoy the occasional cigar. I just try to involve myself with things that are in my lifestyle. And with something like Target, if you you live in America, you’ve shopped at Target probably your whole life, you know what I mean? It’s gotta be something that I feel is cohesive to my lifestyle.
You’ve always been about very open about winning, wanting to win, taking 1st place in contests…etc
Does it bother you that some people say that’s a jock mentality and it shouldn’t be in skateboarding?
No it doesn’t, because I know where I stand in skateboarding. You can’t tell me I don’t love skateboarding. You can’t tell me I don’t enjoy the act of riding my skateboard. I enjoy finding new ways to challenge myself and push myself. I’ve put out 12 or so video parts in my lifetime, and to me, that process has kind of gotten monotonous.
Now there’s a new challenge because when I was coming up, I never looked at skateboarding in a competitive way. But now there’s this aspect of competition – I’m not even looking at it like I’m competing against the next guy. I’m looking at it like, can I land this trick, right here, right now, under the gun? That’s the challenge I enjoy. People can feel however they want and that’s why they are free to create their skateboard art, the way they do. This is my canvas and I’m creating the painting I want to create. That’s why you have your own canvas. That’s how I look at it. I know where I stand with skateboarding.
You were roommates with Shane for a bit. Can you confirm that Shane O’Neill aka ZIGRAM23 is really a robot?
[Laughs] Yes he is. I’ve seen him plugged into the wall charging his batteries before.
For more about Primitive check out primitiveskate.com or @primitiveskate
Interview: Ian Michna
Special Thanks: Rob Brink (@RobertBrink)
Photography courtesy of: Primitive Skateboarding
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