Prior to the 2010s, New York skateboarding was a bit static. Sure, there always was and always will be a strong local scene with key individuals, crews, and shops, but very few of those were breaking through into the global conversation. Something shifted around the turn of the decade, and a handful of independent crews from the city started to gain widespread traction through the power of YouTube and social media, one of which was the OG Bronze 56k crew.
Josh Wilson was part of that wave and became one of the most prominent skaters in the budding NYC scene, eventually turning pro for Quasi. He’s always been a no-frills kind of skater, meaning he doesn’t have a quirky distinct look or an artsy persona he latches onto, and lets his powerful and stylish skating do the heavy lifting for him instead. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, just watch his early parts in Solo Jazz or Trust to get an idea.
We’ve never really seen any in-depth interviews with him, and since he was recently announced as part of the DC team, we decided now would be as good a time as ever to get him to open up about his time in the industry, the changes he’s seen over the years, and his overall life and upbringing, too.
Hopefully, we’re shedding a little light on the mystery that is Josh Wilson.
You seem like a pretty straightforward skater. Have you ever considered having a gimmick, like dying your hair or something like that?
[Laughs] I bleached my hair a while back with friends because of the Peter Smolik boardslide where he puts his hands on his hips. He had bleached hair back then. I don’t think I did it for a gimmick, I think we just did it because I was thinking, “Well, if I’m going to do it I’m going to do it now, not in five years.”
But in terms of gimmicks, no. I’m not trying to add any flare or be anything. I grew up thinking that skaters are just skaters. They just do what they do, not like, “Oh this guy has got spiked hair and a choker, let’s get him on.”
If I was a kid today, I would probably want some gimmick to separate myself though. I almost feel like I got into the industry right at this weird cut-off time. A year or two after would’ve been way harder to break into the industry without a gimmick. I would’ve had to have been an Instagram person or something like that. I hate Instagram [laughs].
Yeah, you came up at a time with the Bronze crew, where I feel like y’all gave NYC a resurgence of energy in the early ’10s.
Yeah, I think I just got lucky with that. Dick [Rizzo] and I grew up skating together, and when I moved here to study at SVA, he would just come to visit and stay with me all the time. The scene in New York was smaller at the time too, so you knew everyone that skated in the whole city. I remember seeing PJ Ladd skate the old LES park a bunch because he lived here at the time in like, 2012-13. I was like, “Damn, PJ fucks with this place? That’s sick.” Now, I don’t even know half of these kids I’m seeing. I’m like, “Does this kid live here?”
How would you describe Peter [Sidlauskas], one of the co-founders of Bronze? He seems kind of mysterious.
He could be a dark-humor comedian that makes skits for a living. He used to make these insane skits but he deleted them from YouTube. He’s a very dry, awkward person when you don’t know him, but when you know him everything he says is funny.
Bronze is still really small. It’s just Peter, Pat [Murray], and Billy McFeely does all the sales and talking to shops and stuff. And it’s sick that nobody knows about Pat, he runs the brand with Peter. He’ll do the groundwork of being like, “Do you like this design? What about this music?” It’s nice because Peter is able to focus on the creative aspect of the videos and the company while Pat is doing the other stuff. Pat is also really good at drawing so he draws a bunch of cool stuff.
What’s the difference between a Quasi trip and a Bronze trip?
Bronze trips are way more hectic [laughs]. Way more drinking and destruction. Whereas a Quasi trip, we’re drinking and having a good time, but we’re keeping it tame and we’re probably doing a bunch of fun extracurricular activities, like finding a shopping cart and throwing it off of a six-story parking garage. On a Bronze trip, we’re going skating then maybe drinking and BBQ at the spot, then going back to the hotel and partying more.
Have you destroyed a hotel room like a big A-lister before?
Yeah, of course. I am a big A-list guy [laughs].
We had a Bronze trip to Texas and we destroyed a hotel room in Dallas. It was our first night on the trip and it got out of hand. Then the hotel said that they had to clean the room with a hazmat suit on. That’s what they claimed.
What did they charge you?
They tried to charge Peter $4,000 for damages, but nothing was really broken except the ironing board. The TV still worked it was just dirty as fuck. Maybe one TV got broken [laughs], but other than that it was pretty tame. We just had chicken wings, pasta, and a shit ton of beers. We probably smoked weed in the room too. Nothing too serious, shaving cream on the walls and stuff.
Any good Wes [Kremer] stories, now that he’s appeared in recent Bronze videos?
He only travels with a backpack. One small backpack. We were on a 10-day trip and he slept on the floor almost every night. I think he slept on the porch a few nights too. He’s got a regular cell phone with no internet and an iPad. The iPad is for when he has to answer emails. He has an iPod for music. It’s crazy.
Now that you’re on DC, can you skate full-time or do you still need a hustle on the side?
Still need something on the side. I mean, it’s New York. It’s so expensive [laughs]. I’m a producer of events for a tech company. And I’m getting older, I’m trying to like, save up money for the rest of my life. I don’t wanna live in squalor forever.
Do you think going to SVA for photography was worth the money?
Probably not. I wouldn’t go if I could do it over again. I would’ve gone to school for something different because I think I would’ve continued photography regardless of college. I did learn a bunch and it helped some creative instincts but I probably would’ve gone to school for something that you could make money and not something like photography [laughs]. Like, you either have to be the photographer or their bitch assistant, which sucks. I should’ve gone to school for marketing or something, or to be a physical therapist to help skaters out because nobody does that.
What’s up with the spot in the new DC ad, the decrepit building? Any back story?
It’s an abandoned military base. There are guards that drive around and patrol. You’re allowed to walk around but you can’t be in the building. Hurricane Sandy came through however many years ago and the whole building was flooded and the wooden wave on the floor was created from a literal wave. I had COVID while I did that and I didn’t even know it. I tested positive the next morning. I just thought I was feeling weird from being in an asbestos-filled building for like four hours [laughs].
Do you have any gear hacks or rituals that you do?
Sometimes I’ll microwave chunky DCs to break them in. I just do 30 seconds and walk around in them, and I do that for two to three times. Otherwise, I need a week of walking in them to make them feel normal. I don’t know how [John] Shanahan does it.
Back in the day I used to superglue my shoes to make them last longer. Like, I would skate éS Accels religiously, and I would put glue on all the seams on both sides of the shoe. Then I would tie the laces to fit me and glue them so they wouldn’t rip. My mom didn’t want to buy me shoes and I was going through them. I would maybe get a pair every two or three months so I would have to make it last.
Also, when I was skating canvas Old Skools and the ollie hole would rip through, I would cut a little square piece of a MetroCard and glue it to the inside of the shoe. A MetroCard is this weird plastic. It would never rip.
“I don’t care about the praise of other people. Skating is just for me. It’s not for anyone else really. I don’t need validation.”
Do you have any skate superstitions?
No red top boards, ever. I think that’s a common one though. It’s funny that some people are like, “What? I never heard that one before.” To me, that’s been ingrained in my brain since I was like 11. Quasi doesn’t make any red tops. Purposely, no red tops ever. Sometimes they’ll be kind of pink and I still won’t skate that board.
Do you get nervous about people’s reactions when your part comes on at skate premieres?
I don’t really care because it’s all said and done. I can’t do anything about it now. I don’t care about the praise of other people. Skating is just for me. It’s not for anyone else really. I don’t need validation. I’m going to skate and do what I do regardless.
Do you think there was a degree of hazing or gatekeeping in skating that was kind of nice back in the day? Something we are missing now?
I agree with that. Not that people are soft, but everyone is so comfortable with everyone else that there’s no room for that anymore. Not bullying, but you know, it’s a learning thing. You’re not going to learn if nobody tells you. You’re not going to know a willy grind is a wack unless someone is like, “Don’t do a willie grind. That’s not a cool trick.” You need that sort of person with knowledge and history to get you there. I don’t know if that makes sense.
You think pros are scared of coming off mean these days?
Yeah, I would say so. I think the internet has made it easier for people to feel more comfortable around everyone because they have seen the person many times before on Instagram.
I’ll work with kids and they’ll be so comfortable with me right off the bat, and I’m like, “You don’t know me like that. You can’t say that yet” [laughs]. Even if I wasn’t a pro skater, people are just really comfortable with each other because they feel like the world is a safer place and could say whatever. It isn’t a bad thing, it’s just totally different from the world I grew up in.
Back in the day wasn’t there some beef between some Supreme riders and some Bronze riders?
I dunno, I guess Dick [Rizzo] was at a Tampa AM one year wearing a Bronze shirt and Kevin Bradley was giving him a bunch of shit for it. I never even talked to that guy. I don’t know why there would be beef about that. Chachi and Ben [Kadow] fought one time too, at Sean [Pablo]’s shoe release party at the Shrunken Head. Then Austyn Gillette broke it up kind of [laughs].
Your dad is an Ironman, right? Like super physically fit?
Yeah, he’s an ex-triathlete and Ironman. He’s like 61 now and he doesn’t really compete now but he trains people to do marathons and Ironmans.
Are your parents hot?
[Laughs] I think girls think my dad is attractive but my parents are pretty average. They look young for their age. They’re just normal-looking white people.
You haven’t considered increasing your collar size and going into the modeling world?
I don’t think I’m cut out for it. He’s taller than me. I’m short and not skinny like him [laughs].
Has your dad given you any tips on how to skate longer, faster, and harder?
Nah, I feel like he just thinks it’s different. I think he wants me to get involved in biking more or try to do the Ironman thing – which maybe one day I would, but he didn’t start until he was like 45 or something like that, so I’m like, “I have time.”
It’s almost similar to skating but at a different intensity level. They’re both interesting because they’re both self-motivated. Like, I have to go skate today or I have to go ride my bike 80 miles today. Nobody is telling you that you have to do it.
What’s the most mafia thing you’ve heard go down in your part of Jersey?
My dad always hiked through these woods near my grandma’s house, and he said once he saw a body hanging from a tree. I almost don’t want to believe him but he’s not a liar like that, so I take his word on that. It was the ’70s, so maybe it could’ve happened. He told me when we were fishing one time. He was like, “My friends and I used to come here to fish and we saw a body hanging in that tree one time.” I was like, “What!?”
Are you an avid fisherman?
Nah. I like to fish but I don’t do it all the time. I used to when I was younger though, because I used to live down the street from a reservoir. I would go there after school. It’s oddly similar to skating actually.
My good friend is a fly fisherman and he’s like, “You go to spots, you look at the spot, read it, say alright that’s where the fish are at, then you throw it out and try to get your trick or fish, and you could try for three hours and not get it.” Or you could try for 20 minutes and get it.
“What basketball player is sleeping on the floor and then going to try and play in the NBA? No one.”
What advice do you have for people reading this in their 20s?
Shit, have fun in your 20s! It’s the best time of your life. Go fall off for six months. Don’t skate and figure something else out about your life. You could come back to skating. Skating doesn’t go away but other opportunities might.
My 20s were fun. I was skating a lot and traveling and kind of felt like I had some stuff figured out about who I was as a person. It was just good times, living for cheap, not having any money, and making it work. Now I can’t do that anymore. I’m like, “I gotta graduate [laughs].”
Yeah at some point sleeping on the floor kinda sucks.
I don’t mind sleeping on the floor now, but if you’re skating for a week and sleeping on the floor that doesn’t make sense. What basketball player is sleeping on the floor and then going to try and play in the NBA? No one [laughs].
Do ABDs matter to you?
They matter, but I think I’ve started to care less. To me, if you know something is ABD after you do it, just don’t put the footage out. Just don’t. It’s not benefitting you, it’s not benefitting anyone else. You’re not pushing the level of skating.
To me, skating has always been about progression. So you progress from an ollie to a kickflip. I don’t want to see the same kid wallie into the same cellar door. You have a brain, you can do something original. Everyone can have an original thought, so do that.
I get that people don’t watch skate videos all the time, and shit, I forget about certain tricks too, but I think everyone should have some responsibility and not just play dumb. If you really like what you’re doing and you want to progress and be an interesting skater, you kind of have to do things that are new, and you can’t do something that has been done 100 times.
“If you know something is ABD after you do it, just don’t put the footage out. You have to respect what’s come before you.”
But, devil’s advocate here, you can’t get a clip at a spot like Pyramid Ledges unless you do a novelty or ugly trick then.
Then just don’t skate there anymore [laughs]. You don’t want to beat a dead horse. The spot has already gotten 5 million tricks. There are a million spots in the world. Do that trick at another spot. You doing it on Pyramid Ledges isn’t doing anything for anyone.
You have to respect what’s come before you. If you’re going to pay homage it has to be clear that you’re paying homage. If you just do it and throw it in your part I’m not going to think you’re paying homage, I’m just going to think that you’re an idiot and you didn’t know that Kalis already back noseblunted that or whatever.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t know. I like the balance of skating and working. I’ll be doing something in the creative world. I like to design and maybe I’ll be an interior designer one day or run a production company. Who knows? And I don’t think I’ll be able to stop skating. I’m addicted.
Is there something in skating that you still want to do? Do you have a bucket list?
No. I don’t know, I kind of always have the notion that skating doesn’t owe me anything. I just found my way into this world. I went to college, I didn’t think I was going to be pro or sponsored or anything like that. Anything I get, I’m hyped on. If I get a colorway, I’ll be hyped. If I get a photo in a magazine, I’ll be hyped. I’m just grateful for it.
I’m just someone who skates and now, in this day and age, everyone is good. Who is to decide who goes where? There are millions of people who skate and deserve to be on the cover and in an ad, so if you do get chosen, just be thankful.
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