I’ve had the privilege of meeting and interviewing a lot of top-shelf skaters for the pages of Giant Robot: Don Nguyen, Daewon Song, Kenny Anderson, Eric Koston, Shogo Kubo, Steve Caballero, Willy Santos, Peggy Oki, Richard Mulder, Kien Lieu, Chad Tim Tim, Jamie Reyes, Daniel Castillo, Pat Channita, Jimmy Cao, Lincoln Ueda… (I know there are more and if I forgot you, I’m sorry.) Truthfully, the topic was probably lost on many readers but hopefully the culture wasn’t. Streetwear, street art, and even punk rock–so much of that stems from skateboarding and no one should forget that.
And so I’m stoked to share yet another interview with someone who shreds. This time it’s my good friend Tad Suzuki. He isn’t a pro or even a recipient of flow–yet–but he is the subject of an indie and awesome short film/sponsor-me video that is slated to premiere at this weekend’s International Skateboard Film Festival in Los Angeles. Fittingly, the names of mutual friends and family like Wing Ko (who worked on key skate videos and was Giant Robot’s entry point into the scene), Carlos De La Garza (whose Music Friends studio provided original score), Thy Mai (whose contributions are too numerous to list), and John Lee (ditto) are all over the credits.
Keep checking the festival site for the latest scoop on the screening and look out for Tad at the local skate spots and parks. He’s a true ripper and all-around cool dude who lives the Positive Mental Attitude.
MW: When we first met years ago, you were living in Glendale. Now you’re in Downtown L.A. That must have opened up a ton of skate spots for you…
TS: Oh man, more spots than I can imagine! What’s great about Downtown right now is that there are so many new buildings and new spots every time I street skate. Smooth marble ledges and wallies everywhere you go–Downtown is the business. And so is Pizzanista!
MW: How did you envision The Working Man project when it began? Did you have a precise vision or did it grow organically?
TS: When I first started on The Working Man, I wanted to put together a sponsor-me-tape with me busting tricks in a suit. Little did I know it would evolve into a short film. I always wanted to take it to the next level by skating seriously but stylishly in a suit, but I had no idea what it would become. In a way, it was controlled chaos, and whatever happened organically dictated the next shot. I think skating itself is an organic experience and can’t be precise. That’s the appeal and that’s why we skate.
MW: What’s it like skating in a suit? Did you have to add secret Spandex panels or anything like that?
TS: Ha ha! No secret panels but plenty of black dye and dry cleaning before we’d go filming. Some days were so hot and unbearable, but I knew I had to push through for the film’s sake. On some tricks the tie would fly in my face and blind me or my jacket would be too tight and restrict me. I really had to calculate what was going on with my wardrobe to make the trick possible and still look good.
And even though it is quite bizarre to be skateboarding in a suit, it actually helped me blend in with normal civilian life. I could skate at spots that are strictly prohibited. Wearing the suit in the Business District made it possible to put in work and make those moments.
MW: In the video there are mariachis, Asian tourists asking you to take their picture, and a lot of cool spontaneous moments.
TS: The B-roll where we interact with civilians and the mariachi was totally improvisation and natural. There were so many amazing moments in which truth was stranger than fiction.
MW: When I think of skate videos, I can’t think of many that aren’t backed by a gear company or brand. Tilt Mode comes to mind and that’s about it. Is there a tradition that you’re part of, or is your piece in a vacuum?
TS: We weren’t totally in a vacuum. The actual challenge was to make a piece that would showcase my tricks to skaters but also appeal to buffs of film noir. Sometimes the rules and standards would oppose, and we had to find our own way between those two worlds. That pushed our crew’s creative boundaries and the only way we could gauge it was to see if we could stand behind it despite what others might say.
It was a labor of love where every team member was allowed creative license within minor parameters. We were all hungry to challenge ourselves and do something different, but I think if you let everyone have freedom they do better work. Every person on the crew was equally vital to its success and I feel lucky that I got to be in a piece that I feel represents me 100 percent as a person and as a skater.
MW: Your piece will hopefully get a pretty good piece of spotlight at the International Skateboarding Film Festival. Can you talk about your dual goals of having the piece seen but also hopefully getting some skate brands to check you out? Do you think those goals conflict at all?
TS: What is so amazing about the International Skateboarding Film Festival is that it is a two-for-one special! The main guys you want to see it for sponsorship purposes are the same ones judging the festival. And there’s no better place for a public viewing than at a theater. It’s a film festival come true for The Working Man. That being said, the goals coexist rather well.
More on Tad and The Working Man (including a killer trailer) at the official site…