To be honest, when I first heard about Mother, I was kind of uninterested. Jaded? Maybe. I love the idea of more startup brands, but wondered if skateboarding really needed more brands and shelf space in stores getting clogged up.
I continued not paying much attention until I stopped by a skateshop in NYC where the owner mentioned off hand that he had already restocked Mother 4 times and has barely been able to keep up with the demand. That same day I stumbled upon a piece by Chris Nieratko, co-owner of NJ Skateshop, who wrote, “in the 12 years I’ve owned NJ Skateshop we’ve never sold out of a new brand so quickly.”
The demand for Mother caught me so off guard that I had to find out more. For such a low key brand with no big announcements or publicity, how had it come and hit so hard? After a couple of calls I got in touch with Chad, the man behind the elusive Mother Collective to try and find some answers.
What makes Mother different than the shit ton of other board brands that started this past year?
We’re different because we’re independent and the sentiment is honest. Because our team is heavy. Because of where we came from I guess. Because we sold out in three weeks. Because we’ll make a great video. Because we care about skateboarding and the things of substance within it. If you’re not into it there are alternatives.
Why call it Mother? Is it a reference to the computer in the movie Alien?
Not at all. As shitty as things went when the Workshop ended I don’t really think about it that much anymore unless someone asks me. I thought about Alien Workshop everyday for eight years and I probably took it too seriously. It wasn’t my company. The reality was that I worked for them and Jake, Gil, Omar and Tyler were the talent. Those dudes could have bounced at any point, but they didn’t because they believed in it and they trusted Carter, Hill and I. When the dust settled there wasn’t room for everyone. Some were phoned and others weren’t. I don’t know the reasons but that’s how it happened. I hold no animosity but those were heavy blows. They’ll be fine. They’ll make their own luck. I think Mother says everything it needs to if you look for it.
You worked at Alien Workshop during it’s demise, what did you learn from that experience?
I learned everything from that experience. The best thing I took away is that you don’t need fancy equipment or a big budget to make something grand. The workshop was so raw and honest. I loved that about it. That spirit is definitely in Mother and probably in most of the newer brands out there. If I can avoid anything it is to not blow it out too quickly. When you have that much overhead it’s hard to contract when things get tight. We have three pros right now and that’s manageable. We’re going to add a couple ams at some point but that’s it for awhile.
”You don’t need fancy equipment or a big budget to make something grand”
Was there anything valuable you learned from Dyrdek once he bought the Workshop? I know some claim he was the reason for its demise, others defend him. Was he pretty hands off business wise?
I was never close with Rob or spoke to him much until after he bought the Workshop. We’d talk a lot right after be bought it and he’d listened to anything I had to say whether or not he agreed with my opinions.
The way things went were due to a lot of things going on internally, and not solely because of Dyrdek. He’s easy prey due to his quasi celebrity status so I get why he’s viewed as a patsy. Because of his show and outlook on skateboarding he probably should have stepped backed sooner. I don’t know if that would’ve made Dill or Ave stick around any longer or if we’d all still be there if he had stepped aside. Shit happened with or without Dyrdek’s involvement.
In the end I truly believe Dyrdek bought the Workshop with genuine intentions to save it and it still lives on. I guess him burning a shit ton of money trying to save something he cared about is really admirable. I can relate to that. It’s totally insane to me that he skated for this company during its genesis then bought the fucking thing 20 years later. He still owns most of it to my knowledge, but I imagine he’s got to be pretty hands off at this point.
What are some tracks you’ve been playing for inspiration at the Mother HQ?
I Wanna Destroy You – The Soft Boys
Outdoor Miner – Wire
Jacquard Causeway – Boards Of Canada
Still Life – Oneohthrix Point Never
Waterproof Candle – Electrically Heated Child
Riding – Palace
Space Junk – Devo
Hey! Little Child – Alex Chilton
Bobby Beausoleil – Lucifer Rising – Part V
Squirmish Frontal Room – Guided By Voices
Goodbye Rap – Kool Keith
Wait and See – Lee Hazelwood
Mother boards use PS Stix wood. I heard that some companies press PS Stix just for their pro riders but use cheap China wood for shops and mass orders. Have you heard of this before?
I’ve known that happens, but I’m sure it depends on the skater.
China boards are sub-par in my opinion. Lesser quality wood, special glues, and they hot cure them to speed up production. Curing a deck in a day inside an oven doesn’t help the quality. I don’t think any wood shop in the US does this and that’s why everyone wants North American made decks. PS still cures their decks for at least a week. Think about it… If you’re skating at a certain level you want the best. And like it or not, the best stuff is more expensive with longer manufacturing times. These two variables are red flags if you’re into cranking shit out with big margins.
Look, I’m not suggesting that everything else is shit because that’s not true. A handful of wood shops in America and Mexico make solid decks, but in our opinion PS Stix is superior. We’re not the only ones who use them. If you’re not into PS, ride something else. All of our decks clearly state “Hand Crafted by PS Stix. Made In Mexico.” on each deck. There’s nothing to hide behind if you make it known. Mother boards are PS Stix…
You said in another interview you weren’t planning on selling Mother boards to big mall stores like Zumiez. Is that sustainable for a board company to stay in business?
We only sell to around 100 skate shops in the US but plan to start selling online at some point. All of us grew up in shops and know their importance. We are trying to cater to them, and it’s working. The support from shops has been surreal. I wouldn’t do a web store if every shop agreed to only carry brands that follow a similar model.
With that said, any sales we’re losing by not selling to massive chains we’ll make up for by selling direct to kids I hope. Hopefully it’ll be to a kid who doesn’t have a shop or who can’t get it because their shop is out of touch or “too cool.” Rather than that money being absorbed solely by the brand, it’s going to the pro’s pocket.
“I’ve played the big box game and it’s gross and unethical. I’d rather break even than sell my soul.
I’ve played the big box retailer game and it’s gross and unethical. Mandatory discounts, vendor compliance… “Can we get it in purple? Can I get it cheaper?” Those kinds of retailers will buy a lot but you have to jump through a lot of hoops and get taxed until it isn’t really worth it for your brand. If we went that route what’s the point? I’d rather break even than sell my soul. I understand why other brands sell to these types of retailers, but they have too and we don’t.
Why do other board brands need to sell to these big mall retailers, and you don’t?
Mother and the newer independent brands are in a unique position because we weren’t around during skateboarding’s boom 10 years ago. i.e. we don’t have 10+ pros to pay, no line plans, exceptions or rules to follow. We’ve done everything so far with internet hype and one ad. I suppose it also helps that it’s okay for a brand to have an online store in 2015: www.callmom.biz
In your opinion, how has the role of the board company changed over the last 10 years?
I look at board brands as the only ones that can really progress things. The board brand is everything to a kid. They’ll put you on, support you and turn you pro. This may not apply to some of the more established deck brands, but it does for brands like Mother. Who doesn’t love setting up a fresh one and being stoked on the shape and graphic?
What’s the hardest part about running a board brand in 2015?
I’d say the 100 other brands, but thats not really true. Honestly, it’s having people support what we’re doing and knowing that we have to do it again and again. The thought of that is exciting and terrifying.
”Do you want to feel moved or disenchanted after a video part?”
What are you most excited about in skateboarding right now?
I’m glad that it peaked. No one gives a fuck about how big or how tech someone goes anymore. People are finally interested in watching a specific person’s type of skating rather than stair count or difficulty. I think every skateboarder can agree on one principle. Style and grace trump everything. A trick, photo or video will only be remembered if it has “magic” in it. Do you want to feel moved or disenchanted after a video part? Everyone’s really “good” now and nobody truly cares. I’m interesting in seeing different types of skateboarders come up rather than trickster-trophy horses.
Do you think your brand will be a hot seller with moms?
If your Mom is into bukkake then, yes.