For the second interview of our Welcome to Hell Week, Ian called up Donny Barley. Now, if you were skating in 1996, you would have most definitely believed that this dude was the future of power pushing on a skateboard. Out of seemingly nowhere (which happens to be Connecticut) this guy came out with two of the most impressive parts in a year absolutely brimming with classics. First he came strong in black and white with his section in Dan Wolfe’s incredible Underachievers: Eastern Exposure 3, and then, that same fucking year, hit us with his killer Welcome to Hell part. Froston may have been that year’s Skater of the Year for Thrasher but for the East Coast, Barley was king.
Donny was down to share stories about filming with The Chief, skating demos for weeks on end, and rough run-ins with the cops, and we’re very happy to be able to share them with you down below. You can check out the rest of the articles from our Welcome to Hell Week here, and come back to us tomorrow for an interview with the big Chief himself.
How long did it take to film your Welcome To Hell part? A year?
Yeah.. maybe even a little quicker. I worked directly with Jamie [Thomas] most of the time, especially with some of the stuff I wanted to do that was out of my league [laughs]. I just remember telling Jamie, wow, wouldn’t it be insane if I could go to that spot and do that trick regular and then do it switch in a line, ya know? But it was really more of a pipe dream, I didn’t have a ton of faith in it.
”I think all of us were just trying to avoid getting real jobs”
How did Jamie Thomas motivate you?
Jamie.. he gets what he wants. He’s a powerful person. I always admired his assertiveness. He doesn’t ask. I mean, he’s not rude, but he just goes out and gets it one way or the other. I was so impressed. Like, we would be stuck in traffic and Jamie would just get in the breakdown lane on the highway and we’d be driving in the breakdown lane for a half an hour to get to a demo on time. Jamie would just be like, if we get a ticket, we get a ticket! And I’d be like.. just pissing my pants laughing. Looking around for the state cops, but 9 times out of 10, we didn’t get in trouble.
At times it was heavy. I remember being mad at Jamie, mad with myself, mainly because I wanted to enjoy skateboarding, but at times when the fear and self doubt got in the way, it hit that nerve where you think, “Well why am I doing this shit?”
But it’s awesome to think about those times because I really loved his ambition, his motivation, his heart, his love. It really created this circle of friendship.. We were all kinda a bunch of misfits in the van. I think all of us were just trying to avoid getting real jobs, really [laughs] and all of us were just kinda like, damn, we gotta find a way to make this work. Because this shit is fun and it’s nice not having to be in the same reality as the common man today.
When you guys went on the Welcome To Hell video premiere tour, was Muska partying a lot and being a pain in the ass?
I didn’t really ever consider him a pain in the butt. I really liked his confidence, his skateboarding ability… He was cool. He had a notebook and he would draw in it all the time, and man… he would write these crazy fonts, graffiti fonts, gangster, cholo, latin style, graffiti. I was impressed with his artistic ability and he was always a step ahead with the hip hop music too. I grew up a bit sheltered. I’m from New England, I’m from a small town. So I didn’t really have the same street background I guess, so it was cool for me to adopt and absorb aspects of that through everyone.
Any really vivid tour memories that have stuck with you?
I thought about this the other night. We’d be in the middle of Kansas or some shit, in the middle of summer. We’d all be in the van, shirtless, no air conditioner, and all of a sudden we’d drive past one of those random firework stores on the side of the road. We’d take a quick little U-turn and drive back in and everyone would buy fireworks, gloves and masks.
Then we’d go off the highway and pull over onto like some private property, dirt road. Cornfields for days… I remember Ed laughing his ass off running around with his bag of fireworks. We had a huge Roman candle war in the middle of a cornfield. Everybody is getting burnt, Ed has got his Dickies tucked into his socks and a t-shirt around his face and there’s burn marks on his pants and shirt. Just an all out war. It’s a miracle that no one got hurt or we didn’t end up in jail or something.
What about the footage of you getting a DUI from our unseen tapes?
Ahh… yeah. That sucked. When we left LA to go on tour, I had a little package with me, some enlightening stuff. That’s kind of how I rolled at that point.
Just weed or what?
Yeah, just weed, me and Mike Maldonado, and Elissa and Satva would always sorta sneak away. We liked to smoke and skate. So I had some real good stuff and it was underneath the seat, and it was my turn to drive. There was the weed van and the non-weed van, and I was driving the weed van and we were passing a blunt around. As we were smoking, we got pulled over and smoke was billowing out the window. The cop is like, “You got any weed?” and I just reached between my legs and gave him my bag and I was like, “Yeah, we’re all pot smokers, whatever,” or something. Then he made me pee in a cup and I tested positive obviously and they gave me a court date later on. But yeah I got a DUID, driving under the influence of a drug.
I got really down on myself hard the next day, just the thought of having something on my record. I just felt guilt and shame. The next day we did a demo with the Big Brother guys and I remember skating with Chris Pontius and Rick Kosick and I remember just being stoked to have the distraction of skateboarding to take me away from that guilt and shame I felt.
Jamie and Ed Templeton didn’t smoke or party but they didn’t mind it?
I think they enjoyed being in the tornado with us. Nobody really tripped out on it. We weren’t allowed to do it at Ed’s house and if we did it at Jamie’s we’d just have to go to the porch or outside.
Do you think kids are more excited about seeing a demo back then or today?
Well… We should just call it starvation. You know, there was a different kind of starvation going on back then. Nowadays there’s an oversaturation, you can blame that on social media, or just how the game is today.
Now the customer, or the kid, just has got so much food for his brain in any direction. He can sneak in the back of his classroom and watch skate clips galore on Instagram all day long. Back then there was a different kind of hype. People were kind of struck. Like awestruck, like holy shit! You guys drove all the way here to skate with us. So they felt special, and feeling the energy and the looks on people’s faces, it was incredible.
I saw Ed draw on at least like 15-20 cars that summer, doing turtles and all the Toy Machine characters and people were blown away. Like, “I’m never trading this car in…” and it’s already a Pontiac Firebird, piece of shit from whatever year.
Ed would just draw all over the car with a sharpie?
Yeah, he had a holster man. And this little man bag that he had with all his art shit in it. And he had his camera too. He was such a fucking addict with his camera, with his photos.
From this tour footage we have, it seemed like Jamie really skated the most street after demos any anyone else. You remember that?
That work ethic, I mean, you’ll just never come across a guy with a work ethic like him. He drove the van the whole time, he skated the whole time, always got us to the demos on tour. Always had the fucking sickest music in the background, always high paced. I had ants in my pants every single time we hopped in the car, because I couldn’t fucking wait to get to the next spot. We’d be listening to Metallica and we’d be listening to the Misfits and just the music would kick my brain to the next level. I’d be sitting there sweating bullets, imagining what the next spot was gonna look like.
I heard there were 2 different versions of your Welcome To Hell part?
Yeah, there’s 2 versions of my video part. I don’t think you’ve seen the original version but it’s out there. I might even have a copy of it. Jamie edited the original video part, and then we kind of touched it up because I had some stuff in there that I thought was a little filler. We took some stuff out. My original song was the Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin, it’s cool because my original part was almost like 45 seconds longer than how my final part ended up.
How old were you at this time?
I graduated high school in 1991, and then I went straight to college and I got my associates degree. I crammed like 2 years worth of courses in 18 months and got my degree in production and telecommunications. Then I took a Greyhound bus from New England to San Diego for $69. Four days on a bus with my 2 buddies to get to California. When I got to there I was 19 or 20 so by tour I was like 23 or so? Somewhere in that zone.
What was the Welcome To Hell demo / tour schedule like?
We were doing serious milage. A lot of times we’d kill ourselves at a demo, go eat, and then on our way to the hotel, we’d find a rail or a polejam or gap or street spot. A lot of times we’d check into the hotel at like 3am knowing we had to check out at like 11am and the demo was still 3 hours away. We always sorta split it down the middle. We’d get just enough sleep and get to the demo just late enough without being assholes. But when we were late we’d make it up to the crowd and Ed would be like, “We’re gonna fucking smash the demo!!”
How did your body deal with it and not just shut down after skating a demo everyday for weeks on end?
I guess just like… I drank beer, you know? [laughs] To be honest with you, I think I drank beer a few times when I had to, just to kind of feel comfortable and loose or whatever but I kept going mostly just by being inspired by everybody. Even if you are sore, you start pushing around, get a little blood flowing, and everybody is just kicking into gear. You look over and Elissa is doing a buttery backside flip.. You see Brian [Anderson], and his skating just had a different pace. He skated around the spot and he went from here to there, he wasn’t attacking the main obstacle and being like the king of the demo type of thing. He’d trickle around on the side and do all this dope ass stuff and then halfway through, he’d start to skate some of the bigger stuff. It was just like dude! You’d just get excited.
It’s almost weird that everybody on the tour with us that time, we all kinda had the ability to feed off of each other. There was love there, we weren’t hating on each other, everybody kind of respected each other’s craft. Where if you saw somebody doing something super dope, you would just get on your board and get a little extra oomph in your push, an extra pop in your flip… just due to the inspiration.