When I heard about Alex Olson leaving 3d skateboards, I just assumed he was an asshole. Two months prior, he had quit Girl skateboards to join Brian Anderson’s new company 3d – And now before their first boards were even released, he had apparently left that too. Trying to figure out if someone was just trigger happy on Instagram, or it was some weird prank, I had a chance to call up Alex and officially straighten out the entire turn of events.
Back in May you left Girl skateboards. Did you leave on a good note?
No, not really. I mean, no one wants to be told that they suck. And I’m not saying I was like, “You guys suck, fuck off!” I told them my true feelings and how I felt and it’s gonna be hard for someone to take. It’s like your girlfriend breaking up with you and listing the reasons why. No shit that’s gonna suck. It was really hard to tell them, because they are the ones that believed in me and helped me become who I am.
Why did you want to leave?
All the dudes I grew up watching either didn’t ride for Girl anymore or just weren’t skating, like Gino, Scott Johnson, Brian Anderson… They just got older and I was the guy in the middle with no one my age. And then everyone else is much younger than me so I felt like the black sheep with the bad attitude. They are just discovering booze and it’s like, I dealt with that… It just put me in a weird gray area. I also didn’t like how the video [Pretty Sweet] was dealt with, but that’s that. They had like no choice, they were stuck in the middle where I think Ty [Evans] would try and hold the footage hostage if they tried to do certain things with it. They were kinda strong armed in a way, it’s not their fault. I’m not trying to talk shit at all, it just felt more of a product. I’m thankful that I’m in it, it’s those videos that the kids see and they change their lives. In that aspect it’s so amazing to be involved with a project like that, those are like Powell videos or like Animal Chin for kids growing up now.
Who would you hang out with mostly at Girl?
Brian [Anderson]. So when Brian said he was gonna quit, I was like, there’s really no reason I should stay on. Brian was the only dude I felt like kind of got me, and Mike [Carroll]. He could trip out on art and certain music, and was open to it when other guys were a little bit more shut off from that, or not open to it.
But then you left with Brian Anderson to ride for his new company, 3d skateboards, and then jumped ship again..
Ok the 3d thing was that, we had talked while we were doing Pretty Sweet and would entertain the idea about starting a company and just fuck around with the idea of it. A year later, Brian told me he was gonna do his own thing and asked if I would wanna ride for it. And I was like, “Of course! If you left Girl, I’d skate for you, no problem. You’re one of the reasons why I skate for Girl.” So he started it and I just put all my trust in him – his vision, creative direction and everything.
Long story short, to me it just kinda looked like Girl. And I was kinda on the idea like, lets do something like what Palace is doing. That was more appealing to me, we just had two different visions. He kinda wanted something to fall back on, and I wanted something to experiment with. So I just told him, I’m living through you because you’re doing your thing and I want that. I wanna do a company as well. I don’t wanna fuck you over and it’s better to leave now than 2 seasons later when I’m really associated with it. He’s my boy and I want something to just really be weird with. Skating is so stagnant to me personally, and I really like the small board movement, whatever you wanna call it.
What if Palace offered you a spot on the team? Or are you trying to create something totally from scratch?
I’m trying to do it from scratch. I’m working on something basically. But also it’s gonna give me motivation, that’s why I quit Girl too because after Pretty Sweet I wasn’t skating at all. I hadn’t touched my board for like 5 months. So I was like alright, if I start something new I’ll be juiced on that and it will make me wanna skate. I was watching a lot of James Murphy videos and he quit his band cause he was over traveling and being this person and he wanted his life back. And I was just like, I fucking kinda feel like that too, so I got inspired a little bit by that. I wanna do something creative, I wanna bring outside sources into skating and skating into outside sources. I was just a little sick of the same old song and dance and I like Palace’s videos, it kinda represents the skating I’m into, and Polar where it’s not the hardest thing – it’s more about skating actually.
”The aspect of music and creativity is so stripped away from it all now and it’s just like everyone has to come out with their rendition of whatever the ‘hot seller’ is.”
Instead of like, I spent 7 days trying this trick and I finally did it, now I have to do 15 more of these. Maybe it’s a lazy way of going about about it but I just wanna watch Mouse all day, but updated in a way. And I know it’s not progressive but I just wanna see normal good skating. I’d rather just see AVE do a line regardless of what it is. When Crailtap would come out with little videos you’d be psyched on those because it was just skating, it wasn’t the hardest thing and you can relate to that. Skating is just weird right now. It’s on such a mentality like, check out how hard I’ve tried to make something.. and that’s progression which is totally cool but I just wanna skate and have fun and actually showcase it. The aspect of music and creativity is so stripped away from it all now and it’s just like everyone has to come out with their rendition of whatever the “hot seller” is. Aka the weed leaf is, or was a hot seller so everyone jumped on board and makes that. That’s just how America or corporate companies are. Oh the iPod sells well so we need a mp3 player.
Or like the 5 panel & bucket hat..
Exactly. Just like, “They are doing it and they are successful, so we’ll make our own.” I hate that. I so badly want to get away from that. I buy a lot of vinyl, a lot DJs remix disco songs and release white label records where they only make like 200 copies of that song. The re-edit is super hard to find and the idea of something being limited and only available at the time you get it is something that appeals to me. That’s the kind of the big idea behind it. Making something quality, and if we have a good selling T-shirt were not gonna make 5 different colors of that same shirt. I don’t vibe with that, I think it’s so annoying. Shitty fitting T-shirts and lets pay the bare minimum and make a fucking profit on it… That whole mentality is so fucking stupid now. I’m like, why don’t we make a premium thing, and if it’s quality people will buy it and keep coming back because they know they are getting something good.
It’s my rendition of how I see vinyl being sold. Even though it’s not a big market, but I don’t want to be a big company. I don’t care about making sales. I care about making something cool and if the company can sustain itself, cool. I just wanna make fun videos and if Nike wants me to film a part I’ll try to film a hard part, or whatever, put maximum effort into it, and have the other side of it to be more creative. Not to sound so fucking cheesy, this is how I feel right now with the skating world. Music is just such a lost aspect of skating and I would like to put that back in. Now it has like nothing to do with it anymore, which is so sad.
That’s another thing I like about the whole music thing, I can introduce music to young kids and they can’t just Shazam it. It’s kind of introducing a genre of music to a young audience. It sounds so corny but in a deep way that’s the idea of it. Like Palace has the Theo Parrish vibes, I wanna have the DJ Harvey vibes. It’s probably taking a lot from them but I guess we’re kinda the same age and generation and kinda in to the same music.
Who’s gonna help you get this thing off the ground?
I have a friend helping me do finance stuff and I’m gonna be the creative and just do it solo. If kids send me their shit and I’m into them and they get the vibe, I’m hyped. Dude, it’s a ripoff of Palace basically, [laughs] unfortunately. I told Lev [Palace’s founder] he inspired me to make my own company, and Polar too. I just don’t wanna step on any toes.
Do you have a name for the company yet? You could just call it White Label.
Trust me that name def. came up, but then it sounds too much like Black Label. Dude coming up with a name is a bitch, but also at the same time the name doesn’t really matter because whatever it’s surrounded by becomes the identity. Then the name becomes secondary almost because the imagery connects with the name.
You said in another interview that you were turned off by skating for a while but your blog helped inspire you. How?
I think maybe the realization, that there’s actually people that… not care about you, but are interested in you in some form. Basically it was at a time when I had just started riding for Vans. I went on a New Mexico trip and Daniel Lutheran was on it, and I guess I was mean to him or something. I wasn’t vibing well cause I was in New Mexico and there’s nothing to do there. I was just being a brat.
I got back from that trip and the creative director at Vans called me and was like, “Hey, whats going on with you? I heard that you weren’t into the trip, and this is your chance, blah blah blah.” That call just fucking spun me out. Like lets just say tomorrow Vans kicked me off, where the fuck would I be? I don’t have any trades or anything and I think I was just like, what could I do to have something to fall back on? I started shooting photos, started the blog and answering questions and the kids got me psyched. There are actually kids that care. From there I realized I shouldn’t turn my back on this. I was really just pissed off at skating in a way, because to me it was not creative anymore… but I was also just 23 moving into adulthood too.
In that same interview you said you’ve never really been psyched on the industry. What specifically don’t you like?
I don’t like how it’s so controlled, you know? Maybe I just romanticize the late 80’s, early 90’s, just thinking about how creative people were. But maybe it was the same, and I’m sure it was in some people’s eyes. I always refer to Lord Of The Flies, where it was just kids ruling this industry and no one cared. No one made money so it was more creative. And now, no one has an opinion anymore. Then for the people that do…
You seem like assholes.
Exactly. No one has an opinion anymore. You go to a fucking skate contest and everyone seems like they are on drugs because everyone’s so fucking happy. What’s the movie with Tom Cruise where his wife turns into a robot? Stepford Wives?
”You go to a fucking skate contest and everyone seems like they are on drugs because everyone’s so fucking happy.”
Do you get bothered by comments like, “Oh Alex is just a spoiled brat, he doesn’t know what companies he quit.”
They don’t know me, why do they care? No, it doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve never met you, if you’ve known me for a while and you said that maybe it would affect me a little more. But someone who has no idea and is already hating, maybe because they are jealous or if they were given that chance they would have done it differently, which is fine. They are entitled to their opinion. Sometimes it’s so fun reading those things.
Has your dad [Steve Olson] been backing your recent decisions? Do you even talk to him about it?
When I told him I quit 3d and was gonna do my own thing, he was just like, “oh cool, well I support whatever you do.” He backs me 110% so it doesn’t matter. If I were to get a sex operation tomorrow he’d probably be like, “Ah cool, if that’s what you want.”
You gonna have him do guest art for your new brand?
No, he can have a guest part, before he gets guest art. I’ve definitely thought of doing an old man team and just putting him and Scott Oster on. They don’t even have a choice, they’re already on.
Anything else you can tell us about your company?
Brian Anderson bought me the book Fire Island, which is the vibe I’m going for with it. It’s a little much for some people.. The whole thing was, Fire Island was a big place for gays to go to and be free and let loose and no one had a worry about people finding out that they were gay. It was on Long Island, where all these gay guys could go and be open and gay and work a normal job and no one would know. Its really crazy and kind of sad because a lot of them died when the whole aids epidemic happened. It was a crazy time but something I’m super into.
So your company is going to be super gay?
It’s not going to be super gay but it’s definitely gonna be like, the opposite of homophobic. Skating is such a male dominant thing, and you have to accept the fact that there has to be so many gay people in skating. There’s no way theres only 3 undercover gay pros or whatever.. they say out 1 out of 10 guys is gay, well how many guys are in fucking skating? I can’t wait for skate reunions and everyone is like 45 and dudes are like, I’m gay!!
Do you think anyone will publicly talk about it while they still have an active skate career?
I don’t know, I think it’s necessary man. It is one of those things that people need to know, it’s just gonna make you stronger and appeal to more people. This is bullshit, there are pro athletes that are coming out, but no skaters? Nothing bad is gonna happen, no one’s gonna not sponsor you, or drop you from their team because you’re gay. And if they do, that’s gonna be a huge fucking problem for them. It’s so stupid. It’s crazy to me that this industry is so fucking big, and not one person is publicly out.
Finishing up here, did you ever consider leaving skateboarding all together?
Yeah I mean that’s the whole thing, that’s why I said fuck it. I’m gonna do my own thing. If it doesn’t work out, I tried it, I did kind of every aspect of skating I could, I’ve explored every part of it, and you can only do so much you know? In a way I’m not that worried, because life goes on, and there’s more things than skating and I have other interests. I’ll still skateboard but I don’t necessary have to get paid from it. It’s something I can live with and not have to milk it. If I lose all my sponsors tomorrow, I probably still will skate and make the stuff I want to make. It will be cool if people back it, but if they do not, whatever, c’est la vie and maybe I’ll be working at In-N-Out. Who knows.
A GLIMPSE INTO THE BAKER HAS A DEATHWISH II WORLD PREMIERE
16 long years later, the second coming of Baker Has a Deathwish has arrived...
REMINISCING THROUGH THE YEARS WITH STATIC ALUMNI
We talked to 12 skaters featured in the long-standing Static series about their memories and thoughts on the videos.
SKATEBOARDING AND SOCCER WITH NEW YORK CITY’S CHINATOWN SOCCER CLUB
Meet the club of skaters, artists and notable locals that have casually played soccer together for the last 20 years.
THE EVOLUTION OF… NYC’S PYRAMID LEDGES
We collected stories from the only ledge spot made out of tiny mini ledges.
JENKEM MIX 136: ELISE HEDGE
Not unlike that blown-out piece of luggage on the side of the freeway, Elise can't be tied down, especially not by genre.