Film and photos by Andrew Peters
This interview with Gilbert Crockett (conducted by Jamie Thomas) came in at 11,000-words.
Unfortunately, the average interview in Monster Children is about 2,500-words, so we had to come at the bastard with a machete. But before you freak out, we understand that Jamie and Gilbert having a chat is skate nerd gold, so of course we were careful not to cut any of the good stuff. However, we did have to cut a little bit of the good stuff. Not too much, but some. Which is a shame—it was really good stuff.
Anyway, the stuff we left is the best, and there’s 3,500-words of that stuff, so start sucking it up with your eye-holes.
What’s going on, man?
How are you?
Good, how are you?
I’m good, man. It’s been so long since we spoke.
Yeah, for sure. I keep thinking about the first time I talked to you on the phone when I was living in Virginia, before I came out to California.
I know, it’s a long time. We haven’t caught up forever. I’m excited to hear about how you’ve been and what you’ve done since we hung out.
Yeah, it’s been a while.
You seem like you’ve been doing your own thing on the East Coast for a while, kind of paving your own path, and that’s a lot of what I want to talk to you about. But first, at what point did you realise that you had a gift for skating?
It was definitely something that just came about. When I look back on growing up skating, it almost seems like an obsession, like tunnel vision, you know? It wasn’t like I was assessing my ability and my life and what I was going to do with it. I was obsessed with it, it was the only thing I thought about or cared about.
But at what point did it start to take shape and be like ‘Oh, I could take this somewhere’?
I mean, talking to you on the phone for the first time, pretty much.
Yeah. I was getting shoes and stuff, but that phone call was when my mom was like, ‘Ok, I get it. There’s an opportunity here.’ That was definitely the point where myself and my mom realised I had the chance to make a living doing this.
You were already riding for Dominion and The Shop at the time—what role did Kim and Maury play in you figuring out the ropes?
They definitely played a huge role in that. They knew Bob Reynolds pretty well, and he wasn’t too far away. Bob was a rep for Fallen, and they gave him my footage and… Actually, it wasn’t as simple as that; it was kind of like a long process. Maury’s the kind of dude who really believes in a certain type of skating, and believes in skating in general, you know? He’s like, ‘this is the shit and this is how you should skate; this is how you should film shit,’ and kind of really telling you what’s up. Also, they’re coming from such a real place, like, ‘We have a skateshop for skating.’ It wasn’t like a business or doing it for any wrong reasons—and they’re still doing it.
Around 2007 and 2008 we were working on the Mystery video and the Fallen video, and we were travelling and skating together. How were those experiences for you?
They were amazing. In Russia doing a demo and the video there, just crazy shit like that. It was definitely a huge experience for me. I was so excited and juiced and enthusiastic; it was definitely eye-opening. I was coming from Virginia, and I’d been the West Coast, and that was about it. And then next thing you know, I’m in China, I’m in fucking Eastern Europe with you guys! I didn’t know shit about the world before travelling. Definitely never going to forget those days.
Yeah, being older already when we were travelling and doing that stuff, I get to vicariously see these places for the first time again, when I see you guys experiencing the world. It’s refreshing, you know, and it’s kind of like when people have two old bulldogs and they get a chihuahua that livens up the scene.
You were the chihuahua. Well, how was it working on those projects? ‘Cause when we started getting your footy tapes, they were finished video parts, but they were all just local in your area. It seemed like, during those times when we were filming, you were getting so many tricks so often, and you were so motivated, and you had such a strong work ethic. I remember how productive you were.
I think it was one of the things where, whether I was in Virginia or San Diego at Black Box skating or whatever, I’d basically been training more or less. That’s not exactly how I look at it, but you know, I was just a skate maniac living at the warehouse and practicing all these tricks every day, and then we go on a filming trip and dude, I was sober—I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke weed, I was like, ‘Fuck yeah, I’m here to do these tricks, let’s do these tricks.’ I wasn’t even thinking about it, and now I think about tricks much more. Usually, thought works against you, [laughs] you know when you have to put so much thought into things? I was ready to go, I wasn’t even thinking about it. It was just second nature: we gotta get these tricks.
And I dunno, that’s what I wanted to be doing and you guys were presenting that to me to be able to do it for a living, and I wasn’t going to fuck around with that chance you know?
Yeah, you seemed really dedicated. After those projects wrapped up, it was kind of like you went home to collect yourself a bit. And then that stay ended up (lasting a long time). And it’s not like we had any rules on how often you had to be around, it’s just we were all working on projects and when it was crunch time people came around more, and we got more done, and when it wasn’t they kind of went back to their lives. But I remember that time period, kind of being like, ‘I haven’t seen Gilbert in a while.’ And I remember when you were coming back to California, I was a bit nervous, because usually when that much time passes in a relationship—especially a working relationship—things change, and people either grow apart or evolve, you know? And you were really direct about it, like, ‘Hey, I’d like to talk to you,’ and we caught up and you were like, ‘Yeah, I want to make some changes in my life and my career and I don’t want to ride for the brands anymore, but I really appreciate all you’ve done.’ And I remember going from not really speaking to you for a while to like, trying to wrap my head around that. Was that something that was intentional for you, to disconnect, or was it something that evolved as you just spent more time on the East Coast? Where was your head at?
I’ve definitely given this a lot of thought over the years. I remember going to the Mind Field premiere and I was living in Black Box at the time, and of course the video was badass, start to finish. But Jake’s part really stuck out a lot, and I’ve said this in a lot of interviews, but like, I can’t help it, he’s one of the guys that really shaped me. I was like ‘Woah dude, this guy’s like my age and he’s on the East Coast, he’s doing it however he wants to do it,’ and it was really apparent in the video part. He knew the type of video part he wanted to film and he did it. I was like, ‘Jesus. No one is really doing this.’ There wasn’t really a dude on the East Coast doing it, like skating gnarly and filming a video part in the east.
Yeah, I feel like it’s kind of gone through waves, like there was that mid to late-90s thing, but in the early 2000s there was a couple of people around, some people coming up, but I do remember that standing out.
Yeah, so after that video, I was really inspired. And I went back to the skate park and tried to learn tricks that he had done in the part and stuff, and playing the song that he skated to. Just being so into that video part. And then some time went on, and I remember being at home when Jake came through Richmond, and I was riding for Mystery and Fallen, and we went out skating with Rodent, and then seeing him skate in person, I was blown away. That’s why he skates that way; it’s about the kind of person that he is. I was really juiced on that. There was time in-between this as well; I remember going back to California, and then the next time I was at home, which was some months later, maybe five or six, and the Mind Field tour came through Richmond to do demos or something after that video, and I met up with those guys. It was kind of like another opportunity presented itself, ‘cause I had skated with Jake, I sorta knew Dylan from Black Box, and Chad Bowers was from Virginia. We kind of talked and hung out with those guys while they were in town. After that, Chad called me and was like ‘Hey, do you wanna try to pursue this? I think it’s an option, I just need to talk to everybody.’ And it felt like a right place, right time sort of situation, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I wanna see if I can do this.’ So, it wasn’t contrived, it wasn’t like an escape route or anything, I was like ‘Oh my god, this is my dream scenario and it’s just presented itself.’
I think that you made the right choice, and hearing you explain it… when you explained it to me the first time, I was kind of just getting bits and pieces. You told me a little bit about what was going on, but you don’t always want to… I don’t know, we hadn’t talked in a while, and you kind of only want to know the necessities of what you need to talk about when you’re dealing with those hard conversations.
Hearing you explain it now, it makes perfect sense. I think you made the right choice. Once you got on Alien and started working, was it a good fit right away, just as good as it was when they first asked you?
Yeah, it was like—and this has happened a couple of times—moving home gave me new energy, you know? I’m sure you’ve been in that position before, where it’s like a new brand… it kind of opens your mind a bit, like a new start. It’s almost like an opportunity to rebrand yourself and figure out who you want to be as a pro skater, rather than just falling in place with whatever opportunity you had. And I think it did feel really free, Chad was like, ‘Yeah, do whatever you want, live wherever you want, film whatever you want, it’s cool.’ And it was like whoa, everything’s in my hands. Then it was like alright, I’m filming, I guess I’ll just make a video part, and I was able to film with my friend Will who I still film with now who is back home. It just kind of happened, got that new spark, and it fell into place; all that new energy and freedom. Of course, eventually I felt like I was a part of the brand, but initially, it was like, ‘I’m just out here in Virginia alone—I get the boards, we’re supposed to film video, let’s do it.’ And I think that works really good for me, being able to have creative freedom in anything is super good for me. It feels liberating, you know? And it went from there, and it seemed to really work out—what I wanted to do and what they wanted me to do seemed to line up in the same place.
Watching on the sidelines it seemed like every time I saw you, you had more and more tattoos. When we hung out, you didn’t have any, so it was interesting to see you evolve and kind of get so many tattoos. Where were you at when you started getting really into that?
Well, I have a crazy addictive personality and at the time I was dating a girl that had a bunch of really good tattoos, and she was getting good tattoos at the time, and that isn’t exactly what got me into it, but it pointed me in the right direction. You know, she went to this good shop and got tattooed by these good guys who are really well respected in that world. The first tattoo that I got was for Sellout—it was a cellphone video that my friend made and we were all in it. We made a pact one night that we were all going to go and get a tattoo on our arm, and I didn’t have any, so it was just this word and a little cellphone drawing. I went and got that with everyone in the middle of the night and, you know, being young and super excited to do something like that with your friends is such a high, getting ink blasted into your arm. I was staring at that thing for weeks, and just got so psyched on it and was like dude, I gotta get more. Just went crazy, pretty much. I got a traditional tattoo with a lot of black in it, black lines—it was a panther head. This was from this dude Mike Rennie who tattoos in Richmond, and him and the guys in the shop were really cool to me, and I already had an in sort of, because they tattooed my girlfriend. I was a nerd, I asked a million questions and I thought it was really cool. Then I’m on trips with Ave, and Ave’s fucking blasted, he’s got so many tattoos, and I thought he was the sickest. Once I got into that world, I was obsessed. Definitely got carried away but it’s so fun, especially when your arms are bare. It’s so fun when you get a new tattoo and you just stare at it all day.
I know the feeling. It’s interesting how tattoos on your skin make you feel different. It makes you feel like you’re evolving, or your identity is changing, and it’s weird; it’s almost like a superpower.
It gives you tons of enthusiasm for your basic self.
I totally agree.
Is that where you got inspired? Because you’ve been doing tattoo-inspired artwork for a while now, right?
Yeah, eventually I started doodling tattoos on paper and getting really obsessed with old tattoo flash, like traditional American tattoo ink is really what I was getting juiced on and I dunno, the guys at the tattoo shop—it’s called Absolute Art in Richmond—are really supportive of me being a nerd and being like, ‘Hey, can I come in and look at these old books?’ And I’d look through these old paintings that these guys did back in the 30s and 40s and 50s and just thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and I still do think that those images are so timeless. You could pull that out in 100 years and I still think that would look cool, it’s like an ollie or a kickflip you know? It’s never gonna be a bad trick. Like an eagle and a wolf head or whatever. It’s never gonna look bad.
[Laughs] I totally agree. I heard that you and your mom started a vintage-type store, is that true?
Yeah, it’s vintage clothing and antique store in Richmond. We started it last spring and we’ve been open a little over a year.
How’s that going and how did the idea come about?
It’s going pretty good. We’ve been paying the rent and getting by, it’s sort of building a little community who are into that thing around Richmond. We’re building a little customer base, and it happened because my mum is an antiquer, that’s her shit, you know? It’s like her skating; she’s always antiqued. It’s always been her passion. She’d work a 9 to 5 and then come home and have all these antiques in the attic and kind of collect all year, and then do a show or two where she would set up a booth and sell. My brother and I grew up helping her with those shows and eventually I got really into old stuff—vintage clothing more so than the antique world, but I also really appreciate antiques. I think I inherited that from my mum, an appreciation of well-made things that have a bit of history to them. I said to her one day when we were doing one of these antique shows that we should just open a store together and after that, next thing I knew we were driving around town looking for places to rent. It happened super quick after that and I couldn’t be happier. My mom was really stoked; she’s doing what she wants to do, and she did for me exactly that—I had something that I wanted to do and she helped me pursue it 100 per cent. She would buy me so many fucking boards and clothes, and flew me out from school to California to skate for you. I feel like I owe that to her and I’m really grateful to her, and grateful we both have this opportunity. It’s sort of like my mom’s store—she’s lives above it, she runs it, she has employees. I’m in California right now on a skate trip, and mom’s holding it down.
That’s really cool. I love to hear stuff like that. Do you have goals mapped out in your life, or are you just enjoying the moment and taking things one day at a time?
I think I’m sort of a one day at a time kind of guy; run on the feeling kind of guy. Like, do I wanna draw today? Do I wanna skate today? Do I wanna work on some clothing stuff? Like, even if I tried to map out a goal in my life, I feel like I’d wake up and be really into skating that day, or really into tattooing that day. I can’t keep track of myself enough to map out these goals. I have these interests and I want to pursue all of them, and I’m attempting to pursue all of them at once slowly, and it just kind of keeps me running I think, being able to bounce back and forth. Ideally, all these things should inspire the others. If I sit at my desk and draw for the first part of the day, most likely I’m gonna get so stir crazy I’ll wanna go skate. And then it kind of works off of each other. I’m just trying to do my best one day at a time. My dad always said, ‘One day at a time’—that’s kind of an Alcoholics Anonymous kind of thing—but that’s a good way to live your life as far as I’m concerned. I’m more comfortable in the moment.