Time machine takes us back to 1986 and an interview with one of the greatest vert riders ever. There was no email & no internet. This interview was conducted by Bart Saric via snail mail! Enjoy…
Hitman: How does the average day in the life of Henry G go?
Henry: Well first of all I work mostly. I write software in the daytime and drink beer at night. You can find me skating the vert ramp at Trashmore in the evenings when it cools down. In between all that I like listening to my iPod.
…you actually experience ‘the rip-off’. You gotta experience getting ripped off in the system and when you see the numbers on what the networks bring in and what the economical impact of our sports are and how much gets routed back to the athletes you know it’s pretty disgusting…
I just want to spread the word that Albuquerque has one of the best skate scenes on the planet–Hands down the best ditches in the world. A lot of pools, sick hills to bomb, great street skating, and very cool locals.
Hanging out with Bennet driving to go skate and getting all jazzed up. That gets me stoked.
1. Before you were skating with pros, who was the pro you most admired and why?
Well, I’ve been skating for 30 years now. Early on I admired Tony Alva then it shifted to Duane Peters and Salba, then later, Tom Groholski and Jim Murphy, then Jeff Phillips, Craig Johnson, Tex Gibson, and then guys like Mike Frazier took over.
2. How long was your professional journey and where did it take you?
I turned pro in ’88, then in ’92 right when skating died, I hurt my back and neck real bad on a 540 in Florida. I was out for almost 2 years.
3. What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?
That’s a tough one. I lived in my van for 4 years traveling up and down the east coast skating and there’s been tons of funny stories. Hanging with Craig Johnson so much brings many stories to my head. I guess if I had to pick one, it would be Le Grand Bournand in ’90. It was a huge contest in Europe where a zillion kids went to this little town with only a few police there. We were all hangin downtown playing pool when I smelled something burning, I looked to my right and saw one of Craig’s dreadlocks hanging in this light fixture on fire. I said “Craig, your hair’s on fire!” and he proceeded to rip it off the wall. The lights were connected all the way around the room so, they all started coming down. Some bouncers came over to try to contain Craig and then the shit hit the fan. We started throwing stuff and screaming and it started this unbelievable chain reaction that led to a complete riot with a few thousand skaters. The national guard had to be called in the next morning to contain it. Thrasher ran a pretty good story on it. It was insane. Too funny. I remember screaming “Rape and pillage, burn the village!!” from our hotel balcony…..
4. What’s been the toughest thing in your life to deal with?
Probably not having the support from my family to do what I wanted-skateboard. I kinda understand it now though. Skating wasn’t as accepted as it is now and they thought I was on drugs…..the whole situation was pretty lame. Groholski’s dad was totally into it. I thought that was cool.
5. Where is the strangest place you’ve called home?
Well, in 1985, I split Pennsylvania to live on top of the Clown ramp in Dallas for a while, then we went to Houston for the S.U.A.S. contest. After that, we got jobs at Gulf Coast Distribution, (thanks to Tim Piumarta of NHS), which is now Southshore, (yo Damien!), and for a while, we were living underneath this home run fence of this high school baseball field. Every morning, the gym teacher would take his class for laps and yell at us to split. It was in a kinda gnarly section of town. We’d hear gunshots all the time. We kept this big screwdriver plunged into the ground for our protection….like that would do anything…ha. That and living in my van for so long….
6. What does your setup consist of? Do you have more than one?
Right now, I’m riding one of our Status 8.5″ decks with some Indy’s and some of our Status 62mm wheels.
7. Tell us a good story from your tours in a band…
Our band tours weren’t as crazy. All the bands that I’ve been in have been mostly straight edge bands and there aren’t really too many problems…….lots of long drives and crazy shows….
8. What lays over the horizon for you? (The future)
Taking Syndrome to the top and skating tons along the way. I’m recuperating from shoulder reconstruction right now. I’m also doing a project record with some guys. That should be fun.
9. What would your ideal skatepark have in it?
Vert, Vert, and more Vert.
10. Was being from the east coast the biggest reason for not getting much coverage?
Oh, definitely. That and not caring if we got coverage. We skated because that’s what we wanted to do, not because we were looking for a job…..We didn’t care about anything. I remember after I won the Cedar Crest contest in ’86, we went to this girls house for a giant party, the next morning we came back and all the doors to my van were swung wide open. Everything we owned was stolen. My friend Ken, who was staying with me in the van, was like “should we just go home?” cuz we were only 5 hours from Pa. and I was all “No way, man!!”. The next few days we skated the Crest with no pads and I hung up on a giant alley oop indy over the channel and knocked myself out……
11. What is your favorite toy (besides a skateboard)?
My dirtbike, (’02 YZ250), or my drums and guitars….my recording studio at my house too….
Big what’s up to all my friends….Mosh brothers, Bernie O’Dowd, T.G. Murph, the Texas crew, Nash, Ben, V.P., McGill, Borst, Cab, Tony, Brando, T.J., Stanton, Donny Myhre, Frazier and the whole Fla. crew and anyone who’s let me stay on their floor….
“…I don’t know. I mean I don’t make any money any more outside of Hurley. I get some photo incentives here and there . That’s kind of a hard question . I’ve done my time and I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff out of it.”
Video Clips: (from his Spoken Word date in Ventura)
In doing this interview I am happy to report that Mike V. is one hell of a guy. He has a Heart of Gold, Fists of Fury, Words of Wisdom, Fatherly Stature, and Street Smarts. He’s a skaters skater. He’s down for the little guy. He’s generous, he listens, he speaks his mind, he plows his own path, sowing the seeds for the next generation. He’s a skater to the core, proudly! -Jeff Greenwood
Describe what Mike Vallely’s ideal day would be like…
I don’t know if I’ve ever given that any though? It already exists in my life, The day is what I want it. I do whatever I want. I make my life what I want it to be. It’s a constant challenge. Every time you wake up and face the day you have the opportunity to make it what you want it to be. I really believe that.
How long has it been since you’ve had hair on your head?
The last time will be today, it’s coming off tomorrow. It’s about as long as its been since I can remember. I promised my daughter after summer I’d let it grow out cuz she’d never seen me with hair. But now the holidays are over and it’s back to business. It’s gotta come off. A serious man needs a serious haircut.
What’s the last trick you’ve learned?
I really don’t know. I don’t go out and skate and try to learn tricks so nothing comes right to my mind. Every time I do skate there is always something new happening, there’s always some sort of learning process going on. There’s always some addition to something I already do or a whole new maneuver. That usually happens rather spontaneously, it’s not something that is premeditated. Even when I do a new trick I don’t think of it as a new trick, I’m just skating and my skating evolves.
How long ago was the last time you bought non-sk8 clothes?
Probably this fall sometime and maybe just a few items over the last couple months.
Where do you like to shop at?
Army Surplus. (laughing) And I’ve been to a few mall stores, (laughing) I don’t want to plug any of them. Yea Mike V. shops at the mall every now and then? After a while skate clothes feel like a uniform. I never bargained to be wearing a uniform. Ever. So sometimes I feel like I gotta get out of them.
What was your last Halloween Costume? Have you ever dressed up for Halloween?
As a child. As an adult I haven’t and I kinda feel bad about that, like I’m not properly participating with my family on that holiday. My last costume was probably a superhero. Spiderman or Superman or something like that.
Who is your favorite superhero now?
Oooh that’s a tough one. I always like the tradition hero’s. The D.C. guys, Batman and Superman. I don’t necessarily like the modern spin on Batman, I like the old school Batman. But then I also like the Marvel Superheros. I like Spiderman, Daredevil, the Incredible Hulk. I’d say if you could call the Incredible Hulk a superhero, he’d probably be my favorite. When I was a kid I was really into Conan the Barbarian though and Spiderman. I always liked Spiderman because he was a teenager.
You’re not a vegetarian are you?
No,? I was for a long long time.
How long was that?
Probably about 8 years
What would you throw on a pizza today?
Pepperoni! Sausage is good too. Maybe a mix. Really I’m down with anything. I can eat anything, I like everything.
Do you have any foods you just can’t stomach?
Not really. I grew up with the mentality that I have to eat everything that’s on my plate. And I’ve carried that into my adulthood. So if I come over to the Greenwood house for dinner and your serving something I would not particularly care for I will eat it.
Do you feel motivated to try crazy stuff for ads/photos/videos?
No. I feel motivated to try crazy stuff when I’m skating and there is an audience. Whether its an audience of cameras or video recorders or an audience of spectators at a demo, usually its spectator? it’s the kids that get me motivated to push the envelope. I no longer feel it necessary in my own personal private life to push the envelope with skateboarding. I don’t know if I ever did feel it necessary. I only just skated and if I was pushing the envelope it wasn’t premeditated. But the few times over the last several years that I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty, higher, further, longer, it’s always been crowd motivated. And it’s always because I want to give people that have come see me sk8 everything that I possibly can.
When you know you have done something beyond what you’ve expected do you get excited to go and watch a tape of it or do you not really care?
It’s cool to see it but for me it never translates properly. Anytime I’ve ever seen anything that I thought was really cool that I did. It’s not the same as actually doing it. The actual experience of going through that process to make that trick is way more intense than viewing it. And I get way more out of doing it then seeing it. Having the footage isn’t always the motivation at the time. The motivation is conquering fears and conquering any obstacle that’s in my way. For me it always when I make that big trick and I go through that process of slamming 20 or 30 times before I pull something it’s like this life lesson reaffirmed over and over. And that lesson is, If you don’t quit you’ll eventually succeed.
What do you think about all the girls skating right now? Do you think they can keep pushing it further and attain more or do you think it might have leveled off?
It seems as far as media it seems to have cooled off very recently and unfortunately the media controls a lot of that. If skateboard media started buying into the idea of female skating more and more then I think they’d have a greater opportunity to further they’re cause. I think the greatest thing about the girls is that they have a sisterhood and it reminds me of when I started skateboarding, the girls are down for each other and they support each other. They have a close knit network of people that communicate and are active and believe in the power of skateboarding.
I was reading on Mike Vallely.com that you didn’t want to be remembered as a brawler, how do you plan on re-working that image a lot of people have of you?
I don’t know. I think it’ll always kind of be there. I’m always going to have to answer to it. It’s hard to say. I really believe I never was that person that people talked about with that reputation that proceeds me. I definitely participated in creating it, but I think anyone who has ever gotten to know me and knows me knows I’m not that person. So there’s not a whole lot I can do about that I mean it’s just the way the animal is, it just kind of spins out like that. People have to latch on to it, I think. For people in the skateboard world and industry it’s very easy to focus on the physical confrontations that I’ve had as who I am because when you focus on that it discredits in a lot of peoples minds what I really am about and that I stand for and so it makes me irrelevant. It makes me a fighter, an idiot, a bonehead and then they don’t have to pay attention to the other things that I’m saying and doing.
Do you think that’s the biggest misconception with you or is there something else people might misconceive about you?
Any time you’re an individual your on the outside. I don’t walk with the pack. I don’t subscribe to the frat house mentality that has become professional skateboarding. I’m not one of the boys. I have never been one of the boys and that makes people uncomfortable. Being an individual makes other people uncomfortable. So when your making people uncomfortable they have to discredit you because if they can’t discredit you that makes them have to discredit themselves. I don’t feel as if I’m misunderstood, I feel as though I’m a pain in the ass for a lot of people because I stand up for the right things and most of them are a bunch of slimeballs. And my presence in skateboarding makes them uncomfortable. That’s why I get pinned as the maniac who beats people up. It’s a reason why I am the maniac that beats people up. These kooks that want to discredit me are stupid enough to get in my face sometimes. Unfortunately I’ve taken their bait one time too many and lowered myself. That’s how I’m going to change my image from here on out, I’m not going to lower myself to anyone else’s playing field. If you want to do battle with me you have to come up here. No one has the balls to climb up that ladder so there probably wont be anymore of that.
How long have you had a shoe model out?
3 or 4 years.
How many different types have you had?
I’ve never redesigned the shoe but come out with new colorways each year. Now I have a second design that’s coming out, it’s the Mike V 2 and it doesn’t necessarily replace the first one which is still out and available.
Is your shoe model royalty check your largest portion of your income?
Definitely, yes. It has been to this point anyways.
When you were first on Powell was it your board sponsor?
Yes, and back in the old days you only made a royalty. When I turned pro for Powell I made good money but it was all royalty. Now here’s a interesting little bit of history for you; I changed that process. I was the first professional skateboarder to ever get paid a salary by a board company. That was kind of the bargaining chip for when I left Powell and went to World Industries. Rocco wanted me to quit Powell and join him to do World Industries and I’ was going to get some ownership and he thought that was going to sweeten the pot. I was like I don’t care about that I want a guaranteed income month to month. He said that was unheard of and that will never happen. I said “then I’ll never ride for you”. He came back to me and said o.k., I’ll guarantee it and that kind of changed the process. Most professionals today have some sort of guaranteed salary and a royalty above and beyond that salary if their sales go that high. The funny thing was with World Ind. Rocco was so nervous about paying me the guaranteed amount of money, but he never had to worry about it because my sales were above and beyond that every single month I was a part of that company.
So it became irrelevant?
It was there and I was looking for a little bit more security than skateboarding was offering people at the time.
What has been your all time favorite skateboarding moment before you were ever sponsored?
The process of starting everything, being so new, so captivating, and so interesting. Just getting that first board and just riding with my buddies and discovering skateboarding. The discovery of skateboarding is one of the most important things that ever happened in my life. It is definitely the most important. That was my favorite time in skateboarding, just starting out.
What has been your all time favorite skateboarding moment since you’ve turned pro?
Hmmm, I don’t know. I never really focus on moments or accomplishments. That kind of stuff is fleeting.
Is there anything that stands out?
What I get off on is still being a pro on my terms. That’s the accomplishment, that’s what I’m most proud of. I’ve been able to maintain a professional career the way I want to do it.
What’s been one of your life’s highlights outside of skateboarding?
Definitely my family and having kids. Seeing them be born. Watching my daughter, who is nine years old, growing up and participating in that is amazing. We have a new baby now and getting to go through that again is amazing. Just being with my family, every night when I’m sitting there tucking my daughter into bed and spending time with my little baby before falling asleep is everything to me.
What skaters past and present do you have the most respect for and why?
Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, and Tony Hawk. Past and present, because those guys were there before me and they’re there now and they’ve consistently always been about the right things, promoting skateboarding the right way. I just have the hugest amount of respect for those guys and there’s not a whole lot of skaters that are new to the scene that have contributed the same way they do and have the longevity they have. It’s hard for me to really get into anyone that’s come after me, not that I think I’m the end all, it’s just that the guys that came before me are the ones that made the biggest difference, and to see them still doing it now still continues to inspire me.
What would you rather do compete in a pro street contest or a pro wrestling match?
A street skateboard contest because there is much more room for self-expression. That’s why I skateboard. The individual creative pursuit. Wrestling probably offers a little bit of that, but it’s not the same thing.
Even if you had control of the outcome?
It wouldn’t really matter even if you had the control of the outcome in a street match. I’d take my 45 seconds or 60 seconds and do my thing and do it my way. In a wrestling match you have an opponent and a referee that you have to work with, and you have a promoter telling you how it has to be done. Even though you can go out there do your own thing a little bit, and change the outcome if you really want to, the end result is when you ride a skateboard your on your own and you can do it your way no mater what. I mean, I’ve taken contest runs where I don’t even skateboard. I just throw my skateboard around the street course just for fun, For just pure self expression. You can’t beat that!
When was the last backyard pool you hit up?
It’s been too long. It must have been sometime this past summer, I can’t place it though.
Have you seen the Dogtown/Z-boy’s movie?
Unfortunately I haven’t. I’ve missed it every time I’ve had the chance, it just hasn’t worked out yet.
Are you looking forward to seeing it?
Oh definitely! I already feel inspired and empowered by it even though I haven’t seen it yet. It’s kinda like I know what it is and I know what it’s going to do to me when I see it. I’m already feeling the effects of it.
That’s all I’m going to ask you.
That’s it? All right. Cool.
Some of our readers have a few more questions. (See page 4)
Questions from of our readers…
Why would he want to run through a graveyard?
What is his opinion of the mixed feedback concerning his latest video part in “Label Kills”?
I like the part… It’s the video part I set out to make. No one dictates my skating so how it’s been received is irrelevant to me.
Why is/isn’t he in Tony Hawk 3?
I’m not in it… I’ve never been asked to be in it.
Is he Rollins, Ian McKaye, or Stone Cold?
Can Oakleys really stay on after doing a streetplant or do they fall off and make you bail?
Bobcat would never ask me these questions if he was standing right in front
of me and so they’re not worthy of answering.
(from Chris Hildebrand)
Why are you so critical of Big Brother? And give him props on the Rain City 1/2 pipe transfer he did–tell him his blood is still on the flatbottom.
Why am I critical of Big Brother? Big Brother has no respect for
skateboarding or anything else… It’s staff is a bunch of no bodies who’ve
never contributed anything positive to the skateboard community. That
magazine isn’t even worthy of using to line a litter box.
(from Micah Shapiro)
Do you slam on purpose during demos to get the crowd more excited?
(from Jordan Zebor)
Do you love mute grabs or benihanas more?
I don’t “love” skateboard tricks. I prefer the mute grab over the other one
but a tweaked out method is even better.
Ask him where the hell my twelve bucks is!
Just go do what ever the hell you want. Just get on the thing and just start fucking riding.