And now the dramatic conclusion… If you missed it, go read part 1. and 2.Mr. Fakie: The ‘Bury the Hatchet’ graphic? I’ve got an air fresheners and T-shirts that Tum-yeto sent me. So for the company that’s had very playful board graphics (some might say controversial), you’ve had a lot of people on the team that are open about being Christian or spiritual. Was there some sort of incident that influenced that graphic?
Ed Templeton: No, I don’t think there’s any reason. The whole Josh Harmony thing doesn’t factor in. I’ve always liked comedy when the devil or god is involved because as characters, they’re always both pure evil or pure good. It’s kinda funny to mess with them as characters. When Kids in the Hall would use the devil or god, it was always the best. I think it came up organically without thinking about having Christians on the team. I have the utmost respect for Josh’s beliefs. I think that’s why he’s riding for Toy Machine. Me and our filmer Kevin Barnett are atheists and we mess with Josh a bit, we’ve tested our boundaries in the past. One time we pushed it too far and that ended in tears so we found the line. Now we can poke fun with Josh and he can poke fun with us. He knows we won’t be believers and we know he won’t be an atheist. I love the fact that he writes music and is creative. That’s what Toy Machine is about. He fits Toy Machine perfectly because he’s a creative skater and the fact that he believes in god doesn’t matter to me. There’s been huge discussions in the past but in recent years we let off the whole thing. I love and respect Josh. I believe that believing in god is intellectual suicide. That’s just me. I don’t know if that offends you or if you’re Christian or not.
MF: No, my mother’s vagina is Jewish but I’m not. I stopped going to synagogue and keeping kosher when I got a skateboard.
ET: That graphic was totally random. It just took off. It became popular so we started putting it on more things. That’s when we made the air fresheners.
MF: It seems pretty pervasive. It ended up being on a lot of things and you’re like, “Is there something more behind that?” And then you had the Last Supper deck which was totally rad.
ET: That was one of those things where there were a couple of kids who’s art I wanted to use so I didn’t draw that one. I talked to this kid Jesse Fillingham about it and he came up with it. I grew up completely as a Christian. I know a lot of the songs and I know a lot of the verses. So a lot of my artwork has to do with growing up one way and discovering things on your own. Leaving that belief system is a big theme in my photography and art. It effects people in this world and it’s very interesting to me. I think that’s how the bury the hatchet thing came up. I thought it would be funny to have them arm wrestling.
MF: I thought they were shaking each other’s hands. Arm wrestling? I’ve got it over my computer, I guess they are arm wrestling.
ET: It’s kinda both. Arm wrestling was one but I didn’t draw a table there. It’s in between a bro shake and an arm wrestle. I saw a guy who had it tattooed on his back and I don’t think it came from me. It didn’t say bury the hatchet but it had that kind of motif. I just saw a kid with it tattooed on his chest, and that one did come from the graphic.
MF: There’s a lot of Toy Machine tattoos. Did you expect Transistor Sect to be so popular? There’s the Monster and Devil-cat but Sect seems to blow them out of the water in terms of tattoos.
ET: There was no master plan. I wish I was smart enough to come up with a master plan but it just happened organically. I guess the genesis was doing comics on tour in the early days. TV tours with Jerry Fowler, Mike V. and Jahmal Williams. I would draw these quick comics of terrible things, like Jerry having incestual relations with his mother, and I’d pass it around when we stopped at a gas station and everyone would laugh. That would branch off to other comics and I was trying to create a character that would be easy to draw repeatedly. That’s where the sect came from. That character had to be easy to draw because you draw it frame after frame and you don’t want five fingers or all these eyes. The Sect is just an oval with an eye on it and the claw hand is way easier to draw than regular hands and the feet and the whole thing. That’s the genesis. I just used it in a bunch of stuff. I don’t know why I used it more than once. It became this thing that crossed platforms in a way. I used the Transistor Sect in Emerica stuff so this character represented me as much as Toy Machine. At one point, I realized I shouldn’t be doing RVCA shirts with this character because it’s a Toy Machine character. I was trying to un-blur the lines. It became part of Toy Machine. I think it fits Toy Machine perfectly.
MF: Has Cartoon Network called yet?
ET: No, I actually know the inventor of Yo Gabba Gabba, Christian Jacobs. He worked at RVCA for a long time. I guess one of the Yo Gabba Gabba characters looks like a transistor sect. I don’t think so. It’s been used a lot and copied to some extent. There’s a company called Grawls, it’s a Target brand or something and it has some characters surprisingly similar to Transistor Sect on some of their stuff.
I think we sent them a cease and desist letter. I thought it’d be great for it to become a Simpson’s type thing. Maybe a little short on the Cartoon Network. And it might work but with all the stuff I’m doing, it’s the last thing I can pursue right now. With Toy Machine, the art stuff, and professional skating, which might be over with this (leg) break. I just feel like if I could find an animator who’d like to do it, I would storyboard it every week or month. It’d be amazing. I just couldn’t do actual animation work on it.
MF: Speaking of going off and doing things, Toy Machine has always had this generational level of talent that starts at Toy Machine and then moves on. We could name them all but Brian Anderson and Jamie Thomas leaving seemed to mark an era. Toy launches careers, but then the riders bounce. How do you feel about that?
ET: Yeah, I’m proud of it and feel fortunate. I can’t claim that I have the greatest eye for talent, I’ve been very lucky with my choices. I look beyond just skateboarding when I’m choosing people for Toy Machine. I like people with character and a quirk that helps me market them in a better way. I also like attitude. Someone like Bam, for instance, was never the greatest skateboarder but his personality was so large and his comedy was so fun. His success was largely [due to] his persona. A lot of the other guys, not that they don’t have character but they were amazingly talented on a skateboard. I think Muska, Jamie Thomas and Brian Anderson are giants in skateboarding. Leo Romero and those guys make me feel lucky to have the opportunity to sponsor those guys. I think it goes both ways too. A lot of those guys are attracted to what Toy Machine is. I hope they want to ride for a company that doesn’t take itself too seriously but at the same time is serious about making good videos and ads. We’re small and we can’t put out the big bucks so the people that want to ride for us ride for us not for the money but because they believe in the whole thing.
MF: You had Elissa Steamer, the most recognizable female skateboarder since Peggy Oki on the Toy Machine team. Do you guys think you’ll have a woman on Toy Machine again?
ET: I’m open to it, but we don’t have enough cash to make moves like that. I can’t just say lets go find a girl skateboarder and put her on. For us it has to be more organic. But if something arises, I’m totally down. That’s something I’m really proud of, it’s a great historic footnote that Toy Machine was the first to give a female street skater a pro deck. She was the first street skater and she wasn’t treated like a novelty. We gave her the straight deal. Her ads are like the other ads, she does video parts like the rest of the team, she’s not a novelty. We set the precedent to treat all women that way. It’s not some kind of joke.
MF: At demos do you get a lot of feedback like that from younger women?
ET: I think that nowadays it’s so far removed that a lot of people don’t even know. Every once in a while I’ll hear, “Oh Elissa, she’s the best”, but I don’t think people put us together. It’s not a direct connection to me doing that. In fact, it wasn’t directly me. Jamie Thomas discovered Elissa, he saw her at a skatepark in Florida and said, “Hey, let’s put this girl on.” All I did was say, “Hell yeah, that’s rad. Let’s do it.” I don’t get a lot of feedback from that. She was the lightning rod for sure. All the girls from her generation know for sure. They have a respect for that.
MF: Your personal video parts. What’s your favorite?
ET: I look at it two different ways. My favorite based on skill is the Emerica video ‘This is Skateboarding’ because I feel like that was the time period when I could document the hardest tricks of my life. In the early days, I didn’t document as many tricks. I feel like someone like the Gonz was never properly documented in his heyday. It’s crazy that the Blind video is just the tip of the iceberg for what he did. Most of it was never filmed. It was the stuff you saw in person that would freak you out. My other favorite part was in ‘Good and Evil’ because I feel like it was a representation of an older part. I was past my pinnacle skills but it proved I could still make a part that was watchable and fun, with more bank skating and less handrails. “Welcome to Hell” is one I don’t feel like I took as seriously as I should of. Jamie was on the right track getting crazy and I was like, “Ah whatever.” I wasn’t going out to make the best part I could in a way. I guess putting it that way it’s a little bit of a regret. I feel like I could have done a better part for sure.
MF: Do you have any favorite songs from those days or from those video parts?
ET: It’s funny, that’s the stuff I listen to all the time. If I listen to Sonic Youth and I’m around other people, I have to skip my video part song.
MF: Does everyone on the team pick their own music for the videos?
ET: In the ‘Welcome to Hell’ days everyone could use whatever they wanted, but now as things have gotten more official it became a lot harder. We ask the riders for a first, second, and third choice of song, then go down the list trying to get the rights. Sometime it doesn’t even work out even for the third choice if the licensing is too expensive, so we have to get creative with it. In ‘Good and Evil’ Austin had a song and we couldn’t use it and he got a song he wasn’t as excited about.
MF: You could just have Leo do acoustic covers. Covers are royalty free.
ET: (laughing) That just might be the wave of the future. I really like that…
We’ve done some videos where we use Leo or Josh Harmony’s band music and it’s really cool. I kind of like it that way.
MF: Huntington Beach, You’ve lived there your whole life. Southern California in the 90s transformed skateboarding everywhere. Most of us from that generation think of SoCal, I.E. and Huntington Beach as legendary places. Best and worst parts about HB?
ET: It’s funny because most of my life I kind of hated this place. Seeing it from my perspective now, it’s amazing. But in my childhood, I hated it. I hated the jocks and the surfers; I hated the suburban aspect of it. Especially when I started traveling at 18 and seeing Europe I’d come back and be like, “This place sucks so bad.” The plan was to leave as soon as possible, but I started Toy Machine which was based in San Diego and realized that I couldn’t move to Portland or New York because I had this company. I didn’t want to move to San Diego and Huntington Beach wasn’t that far, so I stayed where I’d always been and in the last 5 or 6 years I really fell back in love with living here. We travel around a lot and everyone we meet in the world wishes they could live in Southern California. It doesn’t matter if there are crappy people here, there are crappy people everywhere.
To your point about it being a skate mecca, it’s always been like that. So many pros lived here in those days. Basically, the Flip team moved from Europe and stayed in Huntington Beach. Some days in the HB skatepark it’d be filled with me, Geoff Rowley, Tom Penny, Tosh Townend and all these amazing people would be skating this crappy park. It’d be funny to see kids making pilgrimages to the famous Huntington Beach skatepark and they’d roll up and be like, “What the fuck? This place is so crappy.” The skatepark was so small and shitty and we loved it. People would come from Europe and be like, “My local park blows this away.”
MF: With ankle biter rails…?
ET: This place is amazing. The weather is great all the time and I live a bike ride away from the beach and there’s lots of good vegan food. I can be in LA in an hour. It’s great.
MF: We talked about the corporate shoe companies, but I wanted to touch real quick on branding. Skateboarding is interesting in that every one of our products is an advertisement in itself. Skaters want to represent the companies they are loyal to (Mr. Fakie is down with Thunder and Spitfire for life), but in recent years it’s no longer just skate companies sponsoring skateboarders. So it begs the question – where is the line?
ET: That’s interesting. I think that’s our generation speaking. What we call “selling out” is the goal for most kids these days. I don’t want to be in a McDonald’s commercial but most kids would love to be in a McDonald’s commercial, that means hitting it big. Get rich or die trying. There’s no moral compass on what you’d promote or not promote. The idea is to get the money and the endorsement deals. Who cares what you promote as long as you are making cash? My generation, or at least the people I took my cues from, like Fugazi, doesn’t believe [in endorsing something you don’t believe in].
MF: You don’t believe in energy drinks?
ET: No, I don’t.
MF: What if GT Dave’s Kombucha calls, will you do that? You gonna get in on the big money?
ET: (Laughing) Maybe. I don’t really get down with that stuff. Frank Scura was trying to get vegans sponsored by vegan companies. Like Cliff Bar was in for a while.
MF: That’s weird.
ET: Yeah. Dr. Bronner’s Soap was trying to get in recently. “Yeah, I’ll take free Dr. Bronner’s.”
MF: This is more a statement then question to finish on. If Jake Phelps is the Hunter S. Thompson of skateboarding, who are you?
ET: Oh man, I have no idea. You stumped me on that one.
MF: I was going to go with Studs Terkel…
ET: Ha! That’s cool!
MF: Maybe put that in your bio, “Ed Templeton, the Studs Terkel of skateboarding”.
ET: I’ve always felt like a skateboarder and accepted in the skateboard community but in the same way, not a part of it. I’ve never smoked or drank, but I was never “straight edge.” And all this skating stuff, all the hanging out, the smoking and getting drunk I wasn’t a part of…
MF: But you were there to document it.
ET: I was interested in it but I felt like an outsider. Every moment I was in the world I was looking at it from the outside. I’m 40, I run a company and I occasionally grab a board and I’m at a park and all these kids are like, “Whoa! Ed Templeton! We know who you are!” It’s otherworldly. I feel so much love from the skate world even if sometimes I don’t feel like a skateboarder. Even in my heyday. Maybe it’s because I’m always working on three fronts. I would be skating, but running the company and doing art stuff, too. I’d leave the skate world and go to the art world with distinctly different people with a different language. This interview is making me reflect on a lot of things…
MF: Hopefully that’s good.
VSB wants to give a a big big thanks to Ed and Deanna Templeton and Rob Brink for making this interview come together. We also want to thanks Jenifer Weber, Joey Zittnan, MT, and Rachel Miller.
First Look review of Ed Templeton’s new shoe the Emerica Tempster coming soon!
great interview. it reads like it was really fun to interview Ed.
“Yeah I’ll take free Dr. Bronner’s.”
Awesome conclusion to a really in depth and entertaining interview.
cheers ed and mr. fakie.
Great interview. Especially enjoyed parts 2 & 3.
The shoes look good in black too.
I was searching for vegan skate shoes and had the good fortune to discover this blog, awesome work. I wanted to thank you for doing the blog, say how much I enjoyed the Ed Templeton interview, and also mention that Ed is the reason I’ve been a vegetarian/vegan for more than half of my 35 years. I went veg as a teenager in 1993, inspired mostly by the graphic advertisements for Zero-Two nonleather shoes in Thrasher magazine (those shoes had a cool concept, but the execution was a bit lacking, I don’t think they were around for very long). I can’t tell you how many pairs of chuck taylors and tubes of Shoe Goo I burned through in that era; thankfully you can actually get good nonleather shoes now!
It wasn’t easy being veg in a small midwestern town and having a family full of hunters and fisherman, but I’ve never regretted it. I went vegan 5 years later after meeting some AR folks in college and reading Diet for a New America, and have been vegan for 15 years. I lived in Chicago for 5 years and had a chicago vegan food website, but it’s painfully out of date now. I don’t skate very much these days, but I still love to do it and it still means a lot to me. Thanks again to both of you for the great work and inspiration, our actions and examples do carry far. I’ve been working for AR nonprofits for most of my working life, and it can all be traced back to skate shoes! 🙂