In one of his poetry books, Gonzales wrote (and I paraphrase here), “I feel like my life’s a movie that I didn’t write.” As fans, we create who “The Gonz” is and throw around words like eccentric or savant to design a story. But amidst all the folklore, Mark Gonzales is a skateboarder, who happens to have the keen gift of observation and execution. At the end of the day, Mark gets shit done.
I was lucky enough to hang out with him first hand, when we went to his studio in lower Manhattan a few weeks ago to pick his brain about his museum-like work space, packed with everything from teddy bears and Salvador Dali postcards to a hand-painted skateboard with G&S trucks once owned by Steve Claar.
Our talks were long and winding in the best way, with every twist and turn offering insight. You immediately get an understanding that Mark Gonzales is a true creative, who has no restraint on how he thinks and that translates into anything he wants to take on. We went to discuss growing up in LA and his collab with Snoop Dogg but ended up talking about a billion more things in one afternoon. Here’s some quotes from him to chew on that came up as we poked around his studio, while he graciously answered every question we threw at him.
“I wanted time away to do and see stuff. I didn’t go to college or experience hanging out in the dorms, you know. I needed a break. I felt out of touch. I love Guy Mariano, but he was a pretty young kid then and I was 23-years-old. There was a big difference between me and the rest of the team.”
“My partner that I used to do Blind with—I wasn’t on the same page as him. He’d get the kids alcohol and hookers. If young kids wanna get hookers and spend their own money, that’s up to them, but as soon as an adult does that, it’s seedy. I’m not like that.
“It was a lot like The Wolf of Wall Street. He’d do a lot of crazy stuff to entertain the skaters and get other skaters to want to work with World Industries or Blind. But that doesn’t have anything to do with me now.”
MEMORIES OF LOS ANGELES
“One time we were coming back from Playa Del Ray Beach—this was the time when Motley Crüe and heavy metal were popular. My buddy had the handcuffs on his belt so he could be like Vince Neil. Him and my other buddy got into a fight on the bus—I don’t know what it was about, but what it turned into was him handcuffing the other guy to the bus. It was our stop and he was screaming out of control—breaking things, throwing his beach gear around or whatever. The bus driver was screaming and her eyes were bulging out. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.”
ON JASON LEE
“Jason… he’s hard to pin down—his personality. Once he gets involved in something, he wants to know absolutely everything about it—if the shutter stays open for this long, this is going to be like this, but then if I develop it on this paper it will look like this. He likes to know what’s going to happen. His skating was technical too.”
ON NEIL BLENDER
It’s so strange, because I don’t think of Jay Adams and him as similar, but they were so much alike. Think about it. Jay was a punk… a cholo… a gangster, ya know? Neil Blender, he looks like a jock, almost like a football player, but who goes into a contest with a can of spray paint and decides to paint in the middle of their run. That’s pretty funny, right?”
“The problem with me is that if I get on someone’s motorcycle or car, I’ll wreck it. I had a classic car, this Thunderbird and Jason Lee—we lived in the same house—had just bought a Honda Civic as his first car. He told me to drive it but not peel out or do anything wrong. I get in the car, reverse it out of the driveway and look right at him smiling. I put it in first gear and rev it up, then I peeled rubber and just end up slamming right into the Thunderbird and wrecked his car. It was horrible—I didn’t know what to do. But he got me back later. He totaled my car in Mexico.”
“THE FUN MOVEMENT”
“There was a little movement for a while when people weren’t doing ollies and kind of early grabbing into tricks. Basically they’re just having fun—doing what seemed creative and fun. I thought it was cool and them doing their own thing. It was something new.
I asked another skater who has been involved with skating for so long and respected in the skateboard world. I asked him what he thought of it and he said, ‘It’s just absolute garbage. They’re just trying to be like you and Neil Blender.’
I was like, ‘That’s not true, man, they’re doing their own thing.’ It’s fun for them. No one owns anything. It’s not a throwback… it’s their shit. Originally the theory I thought—and I told this guy—one of the skaters is Chris Miller’s son Zach. His dad is one of the most stylish skaters that ever lived. Chris could blast out of a bowl 8 or 9 feet on a good day. How can you compete with that? If that’s your dad, how can you compete?
You have nothing else to do but skate really weird and do something that no one is understanding. In a way, I thought it was all the children of rad skaters that were skating weird, to kind of counter what their dads did… Jesse Alba… they don’t wanna be like their dads. You don’t have to fit in—that’s what’s so special about it.”