Last fall your Instagram feed was probably filled with the same two clips of some unknown skater wearing True Religion jeans while darksliding to notorious late 90s banger, “Torn.” If you don’t know by now, those darkslides are from Trung Nguyen’s RESPECTFULLY part that created a sort of cult following around him. Since then we’ve seen more “illegal tricks” become legal, every video has one ironic early 2000s teenage girl song, and parks are filled with kids rocking Realtree camo and motocross gear.
At 29 years old, Trung, unlike many other New York transplants, did not just fall into the NY style trap. Trung’s clothing and style are both representative of his upbringing in the rural suburbs of Houston, Texas. After moving to New York City, Trung gained anonymous notoriety through graffiti and of course his stand-out part in Chase Walker’s RESPECTFULLY.
It’s been nearly a year since the release, so we caught up with him to see what has changed now that he has made it into the global skate conversation.
Do people ever come up to you and ask you to do a darkslide?
That’s definitely what people know me for, but surprisingly, a lot of people don’t mention it. People definitely appreciate the other tricks [laughs] or my approach because I’m always kind of like, “You liked that part? That’s really cool. Why do you like it?” And they’ll say something like, “Yeah, it’s a more ‘out there’ type of skating.” [laughs] I don’t really think about all the tricks in my part, I was just kind of doing whatever was possible at my skill level. It’s hard for me to want to do another darkslide ever again but I might have a few more to do. But, I don’t want to be known as strictly a darkslide guy.
I think another big thing that people were hyped on was the song. Did you know “Torn” was going to be the tune you skated to?
Chase Walker [videographer] is super open-minded about letting the skaters pick their music. The story is some homies were visiting, and I think one of them put the song on in the car while we were on a mission to go to Jersey to get fireworks. We were in the tunnel when “Torn” came on and all of us were like, damn this song is fucking sick. This is a vibe. This is summer. This is what it’s about. Just chilling with the boys, it’s the perfect song. We didn’t get any fireworks that night but it was just a good time. I’m not that hyped on the song now. I’m a bit sick of listening to it at this point but it’s still a good song [laughs].
What was your reaction when you saw Gifted Hater’s video about your part?
I was super hyped. I have to give him a lot of credit. He made my career. After that video, that’s where it all took off. I woke up with a few thousand new followers from that video alone. I went from like 900 to 10,000 followers. But I had no idea who he was. I wasn’t really on the internet like that. But my friends were like, “Yo, this dude is so sick! Check him out.”
I think skateboarding needed him and he definitely made skateboarding check itself. It’s good to have someone that’s not going to let capitalism ruin culture. He has great videos and topics. It was sick that he did that video review of my part.
Besides the followers, since RESPECTFULLY came out, has anything changed in your life?
Not really. I work a lot more now [laughs]. RESPECTFULLY was a very unique time for me because Chase and I were both pretty unemployed and I definitely took advantage of that. I kind of pretended skating was my job and that’s how I was able to skate super well. I just really focused on skating and that was it. Now I’ve just been doing a lot of PA and video work, and having a lot less time to skate. But Element sends me boards and that’s awesome.
You’re kind of known for rocking motocross gear now, do you ride motocross or rip dirt bikes through the city?
I’m trying to stop wearing dirt biking gear honestly. I feel embarrassed wearing them now. It’s just loud. I really don’t like to dress that loud unless I’m trying to get a clip. They do look cool, though.
I’ve never ridden motocross at all. I wanted to so badly when I was little, but my parents would never buy me a dirt bike. Zak [Anders] and I take trips and go mountain biking though. It’s kind of our way of being like, “Hell yeah!” But, it’s not motocross [laughs]. We can go off-road and wear gloves and jerseys and shit. Again, I guess it was just the vibe of the summer.
Do you feel like you’re cosplaying as a redneck?
I think we accidentally take on the redneck white trash costume a lot, but not because we’re trying to be like that. We all just kind of just grew up in that. I grew up in a conservative part of Texas. My high school was like 77% white. I’m not a conservative, but I grew up around it and everyone had trucks and dirt bikes and hunting stuff. We went mudding and fishing. That was just what we did even though as a person of color, it was definitely uncomfortable growing up there. You couldn’t really get away from that. Zak and I went to a NASCAR race in Texas because what else are you going to do? [laughs]
“My high school was like 77% white. I’m not a conservative, but I grew up around it and everyone had trucks, dirt bikes and hunting stuff.”
You’re like redneck adjacent.
Yeah, we enjoyed those outdoor activities, but definitely, we wanted to escape the conservative aspect of Texas. That’s why we moved in New York. We’re like, yeah, we’re not doing this shit. For me, I definitely feel a lot safer in New York than I do in conservative Texas.
This is where I feel like I belong. And I don’t feel uncomfortable walking around New York because I’m surrounded by a diverse population. I miss a lot of my friends though. There are a lot of things that New York doesn’t have that Texas has. But I’m not trying to put any dirt on Texas at all. Shout out to Texas.
You also seem to be very into snowboarding and surfing, when did you get into that?
When I moved to New York, I realized how easy it was to go snowboarding. Every weekend I would just take the bus to Mountain Creek. That was life-changing. And then Rockaway Beach was a 40-minute train ride to go surfing.
Those two things are more new to me than skateboarding because I’ve been skateboarding my whole life. We probably shouldn’t put this in cause it will piss off skaters [laughs], all my friends don’t like to hear it, but dude, snowboarding is way more fun. You get to be on the top of a mountain and then fly down it, and you can be in the air for a really long time. If it’s snowing at all like I’m canceling everything and I’m gonna go snowboard, and that’s gonna be the best day. Skateboarding is a different kind of fun.
What is Late Night Stars, and what is the plan for it?
Late Nite Stars is just our crew name because that was the name of a deli I used to live by. I remember seeing that deli and being like, “Late Nite Stars? That sounds like a really badass graffiti crew,” or something, I don’t know. When we started, it was a graffiti crew, but then it just became our little skate crew. It’s just the squad.
I make videos, Chase makes videos, Zak designs clothes and does graphic design, and Rowan [Liebrum] takes photos. So a lot of us do a lot of different things aside from skating. For me, I personally think the last thing skating needs is another clothing brand. But still, we have a studio set up. We hand screen print clothes. Our friend, Diego Donival is awesome at screen printing. He’s in the studio with us. It’s all his gear.
I’m supposed to be responsible for the production. But I’m all over the place and bad at managing all of that. So it’s kind of my fault why we didn’t launch earlier. I didn’t want to launch a clothing brand, but we all kind of put our heads together and said, “Hey, if we, keep skating and we’re making videos anyway, we might as well make some money off clothes so we can go on skate trips for free, right?” Making a clothing brand is hard, and I’m not the right guy for it, but we have to do it for the sake of the squad [laughs].
“My friends and I are not skating to get a career opportunity”
Are you trying to make a big career in skating?
My friends and I are not skating to get a career opportunity, we’re just skating to have fun because we’re a group of friends and we’re here in New York and that’s what we want to do with our free time. That’s what it’s all about. None of us really think about that. Instead, we just think about what’s the next video or what’s the next trip or if there are any funny things we can do for the video.
You also used to be in the graffiti world. Are you still into it?
When I first moved to New York, all I did was write. I had achieved some of the success that I wanted to achieve within a year and then it kind of got old. I don’t know. I have a hard time doing both things, skating and painting. I’m a tunnel vision guy. Now, I’m skating 100%, and I kind of left that world. Right now, I’m having way more fun skating with my friends.
What did you achieve that made you feel like you peaked? Is your tag well known?
I would say my tag is well known but I don’t think I achieved even close to what the greats have achieved in graffiti. I guess graffiti is just a popularity contest and I went from no one to being a little popular. I just got to a point where I was too shook. I felt like I had been pushing it and the stress really just got to me. I think this was after traveling to a lot of insane places to paint and having some close calls. I could’ve kept going but skateboarding was more important. I felt like as I was getting older filming a part that I was really proud of was something I had to do.
There are a lot of unspoken rules in skating, what are some in graffiti culture?
Sometimes morals come into play. We don’t like to paint schools or churches, people’s houses, or cars for instance. A lot of it is corny. Graffiti writers don’t like street art. A lot of people don’t know why and the short answer is that it is sort of like the gentrification of graffiti. Graffiti comes from poverty so when you apply street art to a surface that is reserved for graffiti, public and private property in urban spaces, it is disrespectful to the art form. The only reason street art is such a thing is because it is commercially consumable for the art world. Graffiti never was consumable to the art world so it had no value to them. But it doesn’t have to be spoken. I’ll never tell the homies that do street art, not to do street art. I dig some of it and nothing has to be that deep. It can just be chill.
Despite you not being as active anymore, are there still any spots you see where you’re like, “I have to hit that one still?”
All the time. But the truth is from age 21 to 28 I completely fell off of skateboarding because of graffiti. But now I’m making up for all of that time. I’m not in my early 20’s anymore and I’m starting to feel the physical repercussions. In my head, it’s like this is my last chance to skate hard without eating insanely healthy and stretching every morning. During RESPECTFULLY I was thinking, “I have one life. This is my last chance.” I’m not up to the point in my life where I’m satisfied with skating because I haven’t done it yet.” So I basically quit graffiti just to skate and film, which I think is dope.
“From age 21 to 28 I completely fell off of skateboarding because of graffiti.”
Did you buy your paint or did you steal it?
I used to rack a lot when I was a kid. I was very philosophical about it. But now I don’t. It’s too hard in New York. I also don’t think I need to anymore. I have money now. If I wanted to rack I’d have to drive out to the suburbs and I’m not driving out to go and steal. That’s like $20 just to pay for the tolls and stuff.
I’ve dealt with consequences and they’re not that bad. I’ve still racked in my adult years, but when I was a kid I was addicted to it. Every day I would steal something. I never paid for anything. If I went to the gas station, I’m not paying for one snack – free all the time. Now I have money and I feel blessed. I’ve done enough. I’ve proven it to myself. It was very philosophical too. It’s necessary in graffiti to steal your paint because it is anti-capitalist. That’s the point, not to give the corporations shit.
Would you consider yourself an anti-capitalist?
I’m a capitalist, I think we all are but it’s definitely something that pisses me off [laughs]. I’m only a capitalist to the certain extent that I just wanna pay rent, but I don’t think it’s sustainable and I have a lot of criticism about capitalism. I think there are better options out there or at least I believe capitalism should be regulated so that all beings and the planet can benefit. I think commercialism ruins culture and we can see that in skateboarding. Nobody does it for the love it’s just all dollars and mindless consumption and social status to make up for one’s insecurities.
And to explain how much of a capitalist I used to be, I wanted to work on Wall Street. I have a finance degree from a target school and was on route to that lifestyle but I think skateboarding made me realize that that world was evil and that I was better than that. Maybe the anti-capitalism thing is just me being a coward, but I’m definitely going to say yes to modeling gigs and selling out a little bit because I just really need my coin because I’m in debt [laughs]. I don’t see that as being wrong because we all need to get our coin! It’s like how you can’t blame climate change on the individual, it’s a higher level of blame that should be pointed at policymakers.
I want to ask about those drone shots in your video Big Parody. They looked like they were from a stock video.
I was definitely watching 4k Glacier National Park videos at the time. Like all corny with the vloggers and the EDM music. It’s crazy that vloggers just film themselves for 15 minutes and it’s all edited to the same music. In a way, it’s like weird norm core dystopian vibes – an artificial type of format to trick the algorithm. Dude, I don’t know, I was in the YouTube rabbit hole and that’s when I got a drone [laughs]. In a weird funny way, flying a drone is fun. It feels a little cheesy sometimes but fuck it, dude!
Does the title mean anything? Were you trying to parody other skate videos?
Nah, definitely not. It’s just a deez nuts joke. Parodeez nuts! So yea we got everybody, and honestly, nobody’s caught it yet.
I didn’t want to mention that but nobody noticed. People were like, “I love big parody” and we’re just laughing going, “Oh yeah? You like big parody?” I have no idea how no one caught it. People were really trying to dissect it too. I wasn’t trying to be that ironic.
Damn, dude, you just got my ass with it.
It’s not even that original, I think Bill Strobeck’s Mind Goblin video is a deez nuts joke. So we were like let’s just do another deez nuts joke, it’s not old yet.
RAW TAPES: NOT ANOTHER SWAMPFEST EDIT
Somewhere in between Woodstock 99 and a redneck civil war re-enactment.
AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE SKATE PARK OF TAMPA
"It was a young person's dream. Nonstop fucking chaos."
BETTER OFF DEAD: BRANDS THAT SKATEBOARDING DIDN’T NEED TO COME BACK
"Just because you can doesn't mean you should."
A CHAT WITH LUDVIG HAKANSSON, THE OLDEST SOUL IN SKATEBOARDING
The man loves to read Nietzche, skates in some expensive vintage gear, and paints in his own neoclassical-meets-abstract-expressionist style.
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...