THE ORAL HISTORY OF THE TILTMODE ARMY

June 10, 2021/ Naz Kawakami/ INTERVIEWS/ Comments: 17

photo: jai tanju

I have Tiltmode to blame for my turbulent teenage years. Bonus Round, the Tiltmode Army’s third video installment was released in 2009 when I was a little grom only just learning how to not push mongo. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were costumes, grown men painted red destroying a mini ramp with axes; children in cages. Cab was there. I watched it with undivided attention and utmost devotion.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing only the tale-end of a skateboarding legacy spanning two decades, thousands of beers, and countless costume parties, directly influencing generations of skateboarders who also had the Tiltmode Army to blame for their unpopularity.

At the time of their first release, Tilt Mode, in 2000, things were a bit boring in skateboarding. The mood in the media was somber as companies attempted to cool-guy each other with bigger stair sets and darker graphics. Shit was just too serious. Naturally, the skating was good but what made the Tiltmode videos special was their attitude toward skateboarding. They saw the seriousness of the time and decided to push against it.

Man Down, the Army’s second video would solidify their position as the antithesis of egotistical commercially-driven skateboarding. They were the nerds; the weird smelly kids in the back of the class, shooting spit wads at the heads of everyone who took themselves to be cooler than everyone else. The humor, the inclusion, the self-deprecating irony of the Tiltmode videos made it okay to dress up in costumes and smile at the camera – to look dumb having fun with your friends riding a useless wooden toy.

But how did this group of idiots make some of the most notorious, beloved, influential pieces of skateboarding media, ever? We wanted to know, so we asked every member we could dig up to tell us the whole story, and some other side stories in between.

photo: matt eversole

THE BEGINNINGS (1992-1994)

Jerry Hsu: The four key people were Matt Eversole, Chris Avery, Marc Johnson, Louie.

Louie Barletta: I moved to downtown San Jose around 1993. It was a small skate scene back then in the early to mid-90s, so you kind of knew each other. I was going to college there, and back then there were maybe like three or four different crews. I don’t specifically remember meeting a lot of those guys, it was just a thing where we saw each other a lot over time just skating downtown.

Chris Avery: I started meeting Matt Eversole and those people around ‘93. The scene was kind of tight-knit because it wasn’t San Francisco or LA. San Jose was always kind of a weird one. Lots of little groups of people all around the city.

Jerry Hsu: I met a lot of guys when I started to become friends with older guys like Erik Olsen, and they all had cars. They’d come to pick me up and we’d go skating.

Chris Avery: I met Jerry Hsu when I went to skate camp and he was a camper. He must have been like 13, Metallica shirt, ass ripped out of his pants. Probably like a year later someone brought in Jerry’s sponsor tape to NC Boardshop, and I was like, “Holy shit this is amazing.” I took it home and showed it to Marc Johnson and he was like, “Okay, we are getting this kid on Maple.”

photo: matt eversole

Paul Sharpe: I met Matt Eversole through skating and filming growing up with him in the valley. I remember Matt skating the Long’s Drug Store curb. What’d I think of him? I thought he was a little wiseass.

Chris Avery: Total dickhead like the rest of us.

J Strutz: Matt was kind of a dick.

Jose Rojo: Kind of a dick, dry, sarcastic.

Caswell Berry: I thought he hated me. Then again, I was an annoying little kid, so everyone hated me.

J Strutz: He was a sarcastic sort of funny, and that blended really well in the videos. I think that’s what skaters liked about the videos. There’s a fun dichotomy. You can’t have Peter Pan without Captain Hook.

Jerry Hsu: He was very, very kind to me. I am very grateful to Matt and Avery and Marc Johnson and all of those guys for that. Matt snuck me into a bar at a bowling alley and he bought me a drink and he was like, “Don’t let this get out of hand.” Very older brother, dad-like.

Halba: Once you break through with Matt, he has your back. He hooked you up.

photo: matt eversole

SAN FERNANDO HOUSE (1994-1997)

Jai Tanju: I think Tiltmode is really the story of houses.

Louie Barletta: Around 94-95 we rented a house downtown. Doug Shoemaker and Shockus moved in and it became a notorious party house. That’s where I really got to know everyone. It was the skate house/clubhouse for our generation of skaters.

J Strutz: Doug Shoemaker built his own shack in the backyard and he ran an extension cord to have power. We called it the “Stabbin’ Cabin” because Doug was quite a ladies man. Matt Eversole would always come over.

Jerry Hsu: It was downtown and sort of scarier there. I was so young at that time and that’s where people would be drinking 40’s and smoking and there’d be girls there. It was really fun, and everyone was really cool, but for me, there was a darker vibe. More adult shit was going on there.

J Strutz: The parties were crazy at that house. First time I ever thought I was going to die from smoking too much weed was at that house. I was like 19 and I was drinking Mickey’s, and they had this weed contraption with some crazy name. It was basically a gravity bong and I’m not much of a smoker. I was dead.

Jason Adams: That house was only a couple blocks from where we lived downtown, and it was on the way to the bar, so we’d ride past it on our bikes every night. They were always outside, and they were younger than us, so we’d fuck with them a little.

Jai Tanju: We’d ride our bikes past them and throw beer cans at them or make fun of them. What stood out about them was that they’d throw stuff back, or yell, they’d be funny about things. They always had their trash cans outside their place, and we’d kick them over as we rode past. Every single night, twice a night, we’d kick their trash cans over. We were coming back home from the bar and Crazy Eddie picked up some girl there. He’s got this girl riding on his handlebars and he’s telling her, “Oh yeah there are these kids that we fuck with all the time,” and he full-force kicks these cans, but they’re filled with bricks. He’s wasted, and he goes flying, she goes flying, and all the San Fernando kids come out laughing.

Chris Avery: Yeah, Louie filled the garbage cans with cinder blocks.

photo: chris avery

TANTAU EMPIRE (1997-1998)

Matt Eversole: I think things really got started when a few of us moved into a shitty skate house in Cupertino – The Tantau Empire. Myself, Marc Johnson, Louie, Chris, Jerry, and some people that fled Guam. This was maybe in 1998.

Jerry Hsu: I moved into Tantau when I was 18 years old. It was this very, like, warm, sort of sitcom-esk suburban house with a nice backyard. There was already furniture there, there was carpet, a fireplace, it was the kind of place you’d want to grow up. It was very much like an adventure to me. It was a time in my life where I had achieved all the freedom I’d ever wanted. We hung out, we partied, we skated. At that house, all we cared about was skating. We would have parties; we would drink a lot – a lot of the party footage from the first two Tiltmode videos comes from that house.

Chris Avery: I don’t remember it, but I guess I filmed Jerry talking on the phone in a bunny suit on the trampoline they had at Tantau.

Matt Eversole: Our neighbor had a trampoline, and her daughter would jump all the time. We got one so we could jump at the same time and make eye contact over the fence.

Caswell Berry: The Tiltmode name started at that house.

Louie Barletta: I think Matt or Marc Johnson came up with the name.

Matt Eversole: There is some discrepancy on this. The first person I heard say it was Marc Johnson saying, “set it on tilt mode” meaning “lets party, let’s set it on tilt.” We eventually got kicked out of Tantau. We had one last party and people put their heads through the walls. They tore that house down after we moved out.

photo: chris avery

NC Clothing TILT MODE! (1998)

Jerry Hsu: Matt Evs and Chris Avery were the videographers, they had it all. They were the ones who looked at this whole situation and said, “Why don’t we make a video out of this?”

Matt Eversole: It frustrated me watching so many good skateboarders in San Jose ripping and not getting filmed. I saved some money and bought a VX1000 and worked out a deal with NC Boardshop for them to buy me a fisheye lens.

Chris Avery: NC Boardshop wanted help making a new video and talked to Matt Evs about it because he worked there at the time and they worked something out. I don’t know if they asked me, or if I invited myself, but either way, I decided to do that too.

Paul Sharpe: NC Boardshop was where we’d hang out and meet up. You’d go there to grip your board and meet people who came to do the same, then you all go out skating together and a filmer would have us all together. When Marc moved to town, him, Gershon, Chris Avery and I would all go skate together and film. Oh shit and Cab. Street Cab.

Steve Caballero: There weren’t any vert ramps around so my only access to skating was street skating with those guys. I wanted to stay relevant in the sport. My main focus was filming for the Bones video, the Powell video, and the Krux video, all that stuff. Matt was helping me film all these parts. That clip at the end of the Tiltmode video, that rail I slam on at the very end, was pretty much the end of my street career.

photo: chris avery

Jose Rojo: Matt never really told us younger guys he was making a video. I was a teenager, I didn’t care, I was just stoked Matt Evs wanted to film me.

Jerry Hsu: I don’t think I ever really went skating to film for Tiltmode, all my footage was just left over from other videos. I think that’s how it was for Marc too. Marc was like a factory for footage. I think that at a certain point, Matt and Chris were looking at each other like, “we have so much footage of these people that if we get just a little more from everyone else, we can make this thing.”

Jesse Erickson: I want to avoid doing stuff I don’t see the point of. I’m not trying to be a dick (it comes naturally), but I was just thinking, “why would I do this?” I don’t have a career where exposure will benefit me, and I don’t understand who would want to hear from me besides ultra skate trivia nerds that I think are lame. We skated for fun and filmed some of it and it was great. That’s about it.

Adam Crew: Jesse was a huge facilitator. He pushed a lot of us. He used to build these crazy ramps in his backyard that pros would show up to skate. I remember him being a kid and he’s kicking out these pro skaters because he didn’t give a fuck who they were, it was pretty badass. “No you can’t skate here, you’re out. Don’t come to my house without hitting me up. Fuck you.” He’s kicked me out of his place for eating an extra piece of pizza. Jesse is the man.

photo: matt eversole

Louie Barletta: I was a total weekend warrior then. I went to school and was the manager of a coffee shop Monday through Thursday, so I was pumped to skate and film on the weekends. At the same time, Maple was dropping Black Cat, so in the end, my leftovers are what ended up in the Tiltmode video. I had no idea what it was going to be, I just wanted my name to be on a box because I’d never been in a video before, and even better, it was with some greats from San Jose!

Nestor Judkins: They randomly picked me up one day to go film with them and then we lost touch. That was that. I was a kid – I was like 12, and the guys over at NC Boardshop liked me so I think they told them to film a few tricks of me in there. I didn’t start skating with them again until a couple of years later. They used to call me Nestor the Rail Molester.

Matt Eversole: We edited the video at Ty Evans’ house. Chris and I put everything onto master tapes and drove down to his house in Hollywood. He gave us a crash course on his system, and he would leave us at his place while he was filming Modus Operandi. I think I stayed up for four straight days. Chris watched me and learned how to do it so he could take over when I needed to sleep.

Chris Avery: When we were done, we showed it to Ty, and he was laughing the whole time. He liked it but he was like, “You guys are fucking nuts.”

Chris Avery: The very last thing is Marc Johnson dressed up like a crazy hick marching in place between these two mirrors. It looked like an army of idiots, which we are. Matt just typed up Tiltmode Army on a whim, and it stuck.

photo: chris avery

Jerry Hsu: I don’t remember the first premiere, really, and I’m not surprised no one else does either. We were drunk.

Paul Sharpe: The premiere memory is long gone; I was fucked up. I think it was at the Cactus Club? That was a sick venue. Saw Korn there.

Halba: I was wearing a suit at that premiere, I ended up spinning in a circle on the floor, just hammered. Got in a wild fight with my ex-girlfriend outside. Everyone was there, all of San Jose skating, and everyone was losing their shit, screaming. No one knew how big it would be, but watching it on that screen, it felt big to us.

Jose Rojo: It was my first premiere, I was 15 or 16. The flyer was all around town and it had my name on it, like, “Jose Rojo, the Southside Sensation” and everyone from my school had seen it. It was sick. I remember being underage and Matt telling me to just show up and he’d get me in. I was dating this chick at the time and she was super corny, she made me wear matching outfits with her.

Matt Eversole: I got kicked out of that premiere for making a scene because there were like ten people outside and they were overcapacity. I said I’d leave if they let them all in. They agreed. I went across the street and drank by myself.

photo: jai tanju

PINK HOUSE (1998-1999)

Jerry Hsu: That first video just made everyone excited and made everyone want to skate or make videos, or just do something.

Jose Rojo: It felt like there was a huge buzz in the skate world about it. Marc had a part, Jerry had a part, a bunch of big names sprinkled in, and the younger generation, like me, was in there too. I remember reading a review in Skateboarder that said something about young blood coming up from San Jose and was like, “Holy shit! I think they’re talking about us!”

Nestor Judkins: The Pink House was my introduction to Tiltmode. It was the dingier house – dirty, no heat, no nothing.

Matt Eversole: It was a house full of service industry people. Everyone fucking hated us because we would come home wasted and party and make a shit load of noise. So one by one, they all moved out and our friends moved in.

Nestor Judkins: It was a revolving door over there. I think Jerry lived on the bottom floor, Jesse lived there for a minute too. I remember being 14 or 15 and my mom dropping me off and there are these older dudes drinking outside during the day, going upstairs and Evs is still in bed all messed up from partying the night before, shaking him awake to go skate and film.

Halba: Someone wrote in black marker on MJ’s bedroom door, “The Darker Side of Uncle Daddy” which was super gross to me. There was a fish in a bowl that no one ever cleaned, and it got so gnarly and disgusting, and someone put a sign next to it that said, “feed me.” So fucked.

photo: chris avery

Matt Eversole: The party environment became kind of inhibiting in some ways, I’d be logging footage and there would be a party going on outside and some girl would wander into my room and sit on my lap and try and make out with me. It was a good problem to have but it was hard to get anything done.

Caswell Berry: I felt like everyone hated me, and me and my friends looked up to those dudes. I remember one time we saw MJ at a spot drinking Sprite so one of my friends skated like a mile to the store and came back with this huge bottle of Sprite.

I was hanging out at Go Skate shop and Ricky and Avery and Matt come in and they asked what I was doing, and I was like, “I’m sitting here doing fucking nothing,” and they asked if I wanted to come skate with them and it felt like going from the minors to the majors.

Jose Rojo: Ah the Pink House. A lot of skeletons in those closets. There was a girl that lived there for a period of time and she was flat broke so one of the dudes told her if she ate a literal shit sandwich, he would cover her rent. Not sure if it went down.

Matt Eversole: We made Man Down while I was still at the Pink House.

photo: chris avery

MAN DOWN (1998-2001)

Chris Avery: The first Tiltmode video is definitely the inferior video compared to Man Down. I love the feeling, the skating, but we didn’t know what we were doing. Man Down, we had an idea and direction, so it just came out as a better video.

Jerry Hsu: I can’t talk too much about filming for Man Down, we were just skating every day and trying to film for these company videos. Fulfilling obligations and responsibilities.

Jason Adams: Around that time, I cleaned up my act. I had been in party mode for so long, when I found out I was going to have a kid, that really snapped me out of it, and I put all my focus into skating. Matt would hit me up all the time like, “Let’s go film. Let’s go film.” It was a tight-knit community, but it was divided into these little crews. The Tiltmode video sort of brought these crews together.

Jai Tanju: Everyone wanted to be a part of it. Even if you weren’t going to be a pro skater, to have Matt or Chris film a trick with you and be a part of this video with people like Jerry and Marc, people wanted in.

Adam Crew: There came a point where it was like a fucking army, we’d go meet up with everyone and there would be 50 people at the spot! I got called out on what they called ‘secret missions’ where I’m trying to go to a spot where Jerry isn’t going to one-up me without even trying. We’d drive all over just to find new spots. That’s when generator missions started happening here and there with everyone motivating each other to film and go bigger for the next video.

photo: chris avery

Jose Rojo: With Man Down, people were expecting it to be even sicker than the first video, so people started feeling a little pressure to deliver. Maybe not the MJ’s or the Jerry’s, more of us younger dudes who were trying to come up.

Caswell Berry: As much as people used to make fun of me, Jose was the one who got it bad.

Jerry Hsu: I don’t even know where we found Jose. He just appeared one day. We picked on him a lot. He was a little clueless and had no idea how anything fucking worked, and it was really adorable and sincere.

Adam Crew: Jose was a flake, man. We’d make plans and he would no-call no-show us every time.

Matt Eversole: Jose NoShow.

Jose Rojo: I got asked to go to Costa Rica while filming for Man Down which was the first time I was out of the country. That trip was insane. That was the first time I ever, like, fell in love with a stripper – 16 years old thinking I was going to get married, all that. I remember there was so much nudity from Marc Johnson on that trip that Chris Dobstaff couldn’t handle it. I’m pretty sure that’s why he quit Enjoi. We also found Chris Avery naked in the bathroom because he got shocked by the exposed wires on the sketchy shower head.

photo: matt eversole

Louie Barletta: Filming Man Down was way easier. We all rode for Enjoi at that point. We got to go on trips and hook up homies, it was like our party had corporate sponsoring!

Jerry Hsu: One day we were skating at a building at one of the business parks and we noticed you could go inside the building. We built all this stuff to skate in there. It’s in the video, I noseblunt slid this table. We were going there every day and building stuff, other people started going and building stuff. It was this cool underground secret thing for a second. All that kind of stuff ended up in the video.

Jai Tanju: Matt and Chris always wanted everyone to be a part of it. They’d be like, “Okay when are we going to film something?” and I’d go do a few tricks and Matt would film it and that’d be that, and you’d go to the premiere to see if you made it in. That was the cool thing, going to the premiere and seeing the friends section. Maybe your friend who isn’t a very good skater is in the video doing a kickflip, but the room blows up and everyone’s cheering because they love that person and it was a big deal for them. That’s what Tiltmode was about.

Chris Avery: I filmed everything. I was good at capturing shit that wasn’t skating, just funny things. We were also purposefully staging and making things happen. Skits, jokes, dudes doing a nosegrind and finishing it with his shirt off, the Naked Ninja Stuff.

Halba: Did Strutz tell you he’s the Naked Ninja?

J Strutz: That’s sort of a character of mine. I’m actually a really shy guy, but going to all these parties, being exposed to all this stuff, this alter ego came out, and they started calling me the naked ninja. I just wanted to make my friends laugh.

Chris Avery: My friends lived like two blocks away from San Fernando house, and I was hanging there one night, and Strutz comes running through the front door naked just to say hi. He ran from his house to their house naked just to say hi. That guy has a family now.

Matt Eversole: He was just naked all the time. He hurt his knee so he couldn’t really skate, but we wanted to have him do something in the video, so we put a sign around his neck and filmed those clips for the intro.

photo: jai tanju

Caswell Berry: I didn’t know they were making a video until they were editing. When they asked me to front lip that rail with everyone, I didn’t know it was going to be a video intro.

Matt Eversole: Putting that whole Caswell thing together was a bitch. I just wanted to do something that incorporated everyone – people that were a part of our lives but not necessarily in the video. Girlfriends, skaters who didn’t get a trick for the video, whoever. Basically, if you were a homie and wanted to be a part of this thing, we were going to be there on this date at this time. Everyone was in place, so we yelled, “Ok Caswell!” and he front lipped it like it was nothing and everyone was posing and cheering. I think Caswell had a gun in one hand and money in the other.

Chris Avery: Cab couldn’t be there so in the photo I’m holding a Steve Caballero action figure.

Matt Eversole: We took a couple of weeks going over to Thrasher every night to put Man Down together.

Chris Avery: A couple of times Phelps came down and talked shit on whatever we were working on or whoever was skating. But one time he saw Marc’s part and was like, “Damn that’s some good shit!”

photo: chris avery

Jerry Hsu: Again, I’m not surprised if everyone’s memory of that premiere is hazy.

Jose Rojo: Blacked out for sure.

Caswell Berry: I’m sure I was blacked out. At premieres, I just get super nervous and I end up drinking, probably more than I should.

Matt Eversole: We were supposed to do it somewhere, but the venue fell through, so we ended up having it at 83 which was this other skate house. A little bit more rugged and heavy. I think Justin Williams had a projector, so we put up a sheet on the back of the house and pointed the projector at it and said fuck it. It wasn’t spectacular but it was a great time. The driveway, house and backyard were all full. Maybe hundreds of people there.

Adam Crew: I was surprised I even had a part, I thought I only had a couple of tricks. That quote at the beginning was just me trying to school Jesse how to film.

Paul Sharpe: I went to the premiere and saw my part and tripped the fuck out. I didn’t know I had a part in that video, let alone the first part. It was an honor, an achievement to be in that video with those fools. I’m just grateful.

Jerry Hsu: It’s kind of ironic because a lot of the footage in those videos is the result of a lot of pain and suffering in a way. We were going out filming and that can be draining, and an absolutely terrible process and it can take away your love for something. I love skateboarding but there would be times filming where I just wanted to quit, I hated it. It’s crazy that I can feel that while filming and the fruits of that misery are turned into these videos.

Chris Avery: Man Down still holds up. Music kind of sucks.

photo: chris avery

THE MANSION (2001)

Jose Rojo: I don’t even know where to start with the Mansion. You would open up the closet and there would be wigs, shoes, pants, whatever. Someone would disappear in the house and come back out in a gorilla suit and cowboy boots.

Louie Barletta: We’d been throwing costume parties since the Fernando days, so by the time we got to the Mansion we had it dialed. Parts of costumes that people left behind would get thrown in that closet. I scored so many awesome sweaters and crazy costumes from the thrift store too.

Jerry Hsu: Marc loves to dress up. Everybody throws parties, but sometimes we’d throw parties just so we could shoot Enjoi ads. “Why don’t we all dress up as cowboys tonight and shoot a bunch of photos?” And it’d be a two-page spread in Transworld the next month.

Jai Tanju: It’d be 3 in the morning and I’d have work in the morning, and they’d be upstairs blasting music. I’d go up there to yell at them and there would be these grown men dressed up in costumes having a dance party.

photo: chris avery

Jerry Hsu: Well the whole essence, or message, or attitude of Tiltmode was sort of a reaction to what Zero created, a very serious fast aggressive styled company and it was shaping the way that everyone wanted to do skateboarding. Everyone wanted to adhere to that. We were trying to show that skateboarding isn’t just one way or one thing, there are many other ways. Skateboarding can also look like this. Being wack was intentional. It’s kind of funny and counterintuitive but you do have to tell skaters that it’s just about having fun, it’s not about taking it seriously. Taking it seriously defeats the purpose.

Chris Avery: We were tired of how it was at the time. Lots of dramatic slow-mo, everyone in videos took themselves really seriously. In the Tiltmode videos, we tried to just make fun of ourselves. We are adults who play with a toy, we can’t take that too seriously. That’s why we all have nicknames.

Halba: I think the self-deprecating thing came from the fact that we are all from humble beginnings and broken homes. I think a little bit of humor and relatability comes from that. I think Tiltmode tapped into what everyone really liked, which was to have fun with their friends.

Matt Eversole: I don’t think me or my friends related to those Zero videos and all the stuff in the magazines, which is what it felt like everyone was trying to be. Skating is supposed to be fun, and those first two Tiltmode videos I think are a reaction to that.

photo: nestor judkins

BONUS ROUND (2006-2008)

Nestor Judkins: After Man Down, Tiltmode became pretty popular. Dudes were getting sponsored, a lot of stuff was happening. There was a lot of talk like, “Oh are they going to make a company out of this? What’s the next move going to be?” But, they were already sort of channeling that energy into Enjoi. There was like a seven-year gap between Man Down and Bonus Round.

Kyle Camarillo: Bonus Round was pretty late in the game for me. I started working full time, filming for Enjoi around 2004. I think Tiltmode dudes got a little preoccupied with making Bag of Suck, or maybe just working on Enjoi stuff in general.

Cairo Foster: Why wasn’t there a company? I hypothesize that some people thought that if you commodify what Tiltmode is, it loses what it’s about. That company would have been sick! But it never happened. I think actually when Marc Johnson left and Matt Evs took over Enjoi, that was where it went.

photo: carson lee

Matt Eversole: Jesse Erickson was making a lot of stuff in those years between Man Down and Bonus Round. He made Memoirs of a Moron which I consider to be the third Tiltmode video. A lot of time had passed since Man Down, and we got older, and it felt like a good time to make room for the younger generation and try to shine a light on them.

Chris Avery: Man Down came out in 2001. I moved away around 2005. By that point, everyone was working on Bag of Suck. Bonus Round I think came out in 2009? It had been a while.

Matt Eversole: I was working at Dwindle [owners of Enjoi] as brand manager for Enjoi, but I wanted to do a project where I could work with all my friends outside of Dwindle, too. I worked out a deal with them to pay for another Tiltmode video, and they seemed into it because all the Enjoi guys would have parts.

Louie Barletta: I took filming for Bonus Round kind of seriously. I wanted to show that I could kinda skate! Plus by then I figured skating was worth quitting the coffee shop so I was out skating and filming and traveling all the time.

Carson Lee: We did this trip to Spain, maybe 2006 or 2007, and Enjoi had three floors of apartments for one month. The Enjoi guys were there and Tiltmode guys would fly out to film for Bonus Round. Dwindle paid for the Enjoi guys, and I think Matt might have paid for the extra apartments for the Tiltmode guys. It was like, “if you can pay for a plane ticket out, you can stay with us and film. Open invite.” Zack Wallin quit school to come out on that trip and that’s how he got on Enjoi. He was there just ripping harder than anyone!

Nestor Judkins: Yeah, that trip to Spain was a big one. I had top bunk above Caswell. We had this whole side of an apartment building in downtown Barcelona, open invitation to anyone who wanted to come skate. I remember Jesse and Chris missed the session or something because they were drunk, so they went and got shitty tattoos instead, but they were so bad they just flaked off.

Caswell Berry: Yeah, that trip was great. I remember that being a long one. If Nestor says I peed the bed then I probably did, I drank a lot around then.

photo: nestor judkins

Halba: There’s a clip of Matt shaving my chest hair on that trip. I think that was long after Caswell shaved his head.

Caswell Berry: Ah man that was awful. I literally have had one shaved head in my entire life, and it was that day. I was drunk, man. We used to play this game called Kings Cup with playing cards and alcohol. If you pull certain cards, you have to do dares or something. Basically, Ricky drank my piss. The next thing I know it’s the morning, I have a swollen eye, one eyebrow, and a mohawk. So I shaved the other eyebrow off, and was like, “fuck it” and I took a Bic razor and shaved it completely clean like MJ. Then I went to the mall and shopped for Christmas presents. The fucked up thing is that was probably just like, a Wednesday.

Caswell Berry: My favorite part about Bonus Round is dedicating it to Zered Bassett. I had never even met that guy! Even to this day, I probably only hung out with him once or twice. I mean he’s sick, but what the fuck?

Zered Bassett: Yeah, I’ve seen the video. I had met him before. Nothing more than running into him at spots a few times. It cracked me up when I saw it and I feel honored. Definitely curious why that came to him.

Kyle Camarillo: Jose got a cover backtailsliding Stanford, but he didn’t actually make it, and everyone gave him shit for it. It became a little extra. When I said, “Jose, let’s go to Stanford” in the end credits, that was a low blow.

Jose Rojo: It was on the cover of Slap and everyone knew I didn’t make it. It was in the back of my mind for years. I put it off and put it off, but I always knew I had to do it. For Bonus Round I was like, “fuck it I gotta do this.” I specifically remember it becoming such a big thing that Evs was like, “I will turn you pro if you do this.” I fucking do the backtail, and I don’t know if the footage in the video cuts or what, but I landed and rode off the curb and threw my hands in the air and screamed, “I’m pro!” I still have that setup, to this day. I saved it. Matt threw me a pro party and kicked me off on the same day.

Nestor Judkins: Since Chris Avery had moved away, Matt and Jesse Erickson were the ones who put Bonus Round together. They looked at all the footage that they and Kyle and Carson and everyone else had collected and decided it looked like a video.

photo: carson lee

Matt Eversole: The premiere for Bonus Round was at a theater called Camera 12, and it was more in line with what you’d expect from a premiere. The after-party was at a bar called the Wagon Wheel. I remember sneaking underage people over the patio fence.

Colt Cannon: I remember that one being at a theater, I missed the after-party, but then I ended up at the mansion with Louie, and I woke up in the bed of a pickup truck.

Nestor Judkins: That premiere was insane. For me at that age, that was something super special that I could experience. I was in a Santa Cruz video before, but I was really young then. This one was like, “I am dressed to go to a premiere, there I am on the screen.” Hearing people scream and clap. It was this unreal, meaningful experience for me. And then we went to the bar and got hammered. Caswell’s mom tried to hook me up with his sister at the after-party, which was kind of funny.

Carson Lee: Bonus Round was cool because it came at the very end of the VX age. It was the tail end of people buying videos or going to skate shops to watch. That’s the thing with Tiltmode, it didn’t have the gnarliest skating or the most serious parts, but it is still sick. That last trick in Bonus Round, Caswell does a tre flip and Jose says, “Didn’t Jerry already do that?” Jerry did do that trick in his part in Bonus Round, he does a tre flip over a trashcan at the same spot. It’s just thrown into the middle of his part.

Nestor Judkins: Bonus Round pushed the younger people to step up and take on the Tiltmode title for a moment, but it also felt like sort of a closing of the book. That was that, where do we go from here?

Jai Tanju: It was like driving down memory lane without the car crash at the end. The car just starts to break down and slowly goes until the wheels are falling off and people are getting out. That was a good video. It felt like a good close.

photo: carson lee

NOW

Jerry Hsu: When I look back on those videos, I look back fondly. It was some of the most exciting times of my life. I get why people enjoy it and why it survives, it taps into that childlike DIY essence that we can all relate to. And it is so DIY like the building of the giant VX, all those things are kind of like you gotta work with what you got and it’s a thing that all skaters know about. And plus the skating is like, pretty good. Its good enough.

Chris Avery: It was just a good time. I watch those videos now and I usually can’t remember which clips I filmed, but I remember the feeling of being there and I remember the friendships.

Cairo Foster: Uninhibited fun. It’s unique to those people who really love it, no different from how people talk about Animal Chin or any piece of skateboarding memory. Personalities shine through and it made those videos special.

photo: jai tanju

Caswell Berry: Everyone related to it. Older dudes who were hyped on Cab, dudes that only skate curbs, flip in flip out tech dudes, it had something for everyone.

Halba: Tiltmode tapped into what everyone really liked, which was having fun with their friends. And that’s what we were: friends. It was a video that had guys like me in it. Not just pros, but normal ass dudes just trying to skate and have fun.

Jai Tanju: They called it the Tiltmode Army but they really were an army of people out for the same thing headed in the same direction trying to do something in skateboarding. It was about that time. It was about being young and free and seeing this apple in front of you and you’re either going to let it rot or eat it up. There are things I really miss. There was so much comradery and so much happening. Every day there was somewhere to go and something to do and someone to hang out with. Weekends it’d be like, “Oh yeah there are 40 of us.” It’s not really like that anymore.

Jerry Hsu: I think people really had this expectation of me from those videos, and when they saw me in real life, who knows what mood I was in. People would straight up say to me, “Oh I thought you would be funnier.” The thing about Tiltmode is that as nice as it is, there’s a bit of an illusion. We were people with normal problems. People would fight and there was anger and depression and sadness. Sometimes I think maybe skating and throwing the parties and making the videos was overcompensation for how everyone felt, and I don’t want to be someone who speaks for other people at all. What I’m saying is just my opinion. People will also be like, “San Jose is the best place ever. I don’t know what Jerry is talking about.” But dissecting those videos and looking back on them, those videos and those people are complicated. It was trying to deal with a lot – everyday life. Those videos were a real outlet and I think it saved a lot of people, too. I think making the video gave people life.

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Comments

  1. voice of reason

    June 15, 2021 8:01 am

    Who is this Ian guy and why is he so mad at Paul? Also why is Steve Cab a cook @Corey Obrien? You guys seem like bitter dorks.

  2. Shambala

    June 16, 2021 2:59 am

    Jenkem this is the stuff what u are best with along those video interviews. Pure skate journalism. After transworld and skate boarder and slap stopped this stuff has just gone. We need high quality skate journalism. Thank you jenkem for this article

  3. Jade Mendoza

    June 16, 2021 2:42 pm

    http://tiltmodearmy.com/mainvein/before-the-tma-was-the-tma/
    One part of your story was left out…

  4. It’s colt cannon

    June 17, 2021 12:18 pm

    Need more info on the Paul beef! Overall this was some of the best journalism on the net minus colt only having one thing in it! TILTMODE FOR LIFE

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