Photos by Andrew Peters
The last time we interviewed Austyn Gillette, he had a busted knee and a shoe coming out on HUF.
Recovering from meniscus surgery is never great, but it sucks the world’s balls when you’re a professional skater with a shoe about to drop. Austyn seemed pretty chill at the time, though, saying ‘I can’t do anything about it. I’d rather take the right steps and get better so I can skate for another ten years.’ This was back in the very different world of 2015. Obama was president, poke bowls didn’t yet exist, and the internet was still made out of wood. It was also a markedly different world in skateboarding, with brands dissolving as quickly as they emerged, and kinships being withdrawn before they had a chance to form. Since then, Austyn’s knees have gotten better and his skating has gotten better. A lot better. And his part in the hotly anticipated Former film, Cheap Perfume, will be testimony to that. Monster Children caught up with Mr. Gillette to see what he’s riding, where he’s going, and what’s he’s been up to in the last half-decade.
How you been, dude?
Good, just getting everything ready. We’re launching soon.
What are you doing?
We got two weeks. We’re doing the launch. We’re opening up our new space and doing a little video thingy for it.
Cool. Okay, here is my first question: There are rumours you’re starting up a board company. Are they true? Can you talk about it? Is that a thing?
Are you sure?
Yes. I’ve just been riding.
I’ve been riding boards from Bunnings.
You’ve got a board company in the works, haven’t you? Why do you lie to me?
I really don’t. I’m not starting anything. I can’t… I don’t have enough time to do that. I’m just riding boards with photos taken by a good friend of mine. She shot photos of some friends of ours, and then I write a word that I like on it, and I print it, and I skate it. I’ve been skating the same shape for about twelve years, so I’m just putting a new image on that.
You’re making your own boards?
I’m paying for my skateboards. That’s what’s happening.
Oh, so you’re getting your own boards made.
Yeah, the same shape I’ve been riding for years.
That’s crazy and awesome.
Yeah. I think that’s why I’m excited about it because it’s not available anywhere, not selling it, you can’t buy it…
I’d like to buy one.
You can have one for fifteen bucks.
Who’s the friend supplying the pics you’re printing on them?
I like her.
Have you had people asking if they can buy boards off of you?
Yeah, they have. It’s funny because with the company now, Former, I have a lot of relationships with distributors, and they’re basically like, ‘Let us know when you’re ready to go!’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not doing that.’
How many people are on the Former skate team now?
So, it’s three skaters and three surfers?
Four surfers now. We gotta catch up.
How many directors are there? Who’s the boss?
I guess I handle the skate side of things. I’m handling a lot of stuff on the back end. My brother’s helping out a lot. Dane (Reynolds) has been doing a great deal of it the past few years. We’ve had employees along the way and friends, but those things shift.
What, if anything, does that no-good hippie Craig Anderson do?
Craig just surfs. He just does what he should be doing or wants to be doing.
Do you ever hear from him?
A couple of emails every six months.
Have you met his housemate, Dunni?
Yeah, he’s the best.
Yeah, he’s a funny motherfucker.
Speaking of funny motherfuckers, you’re one of the funnier people I know.
Shut up, you know that. But I have trouble consolidating the two Austyns: there’s the one that I know, the one that’s always up for gags—and then there’s the serious skater Austyn, the one I see in videos.
There’s probably three people.
What do you mean? Who’s the third one?
Well, there’s the music thing.
Ah, but that’s also a serious character.
Yeah, but a different character. That’s a vulnerable character. That’s another person.
And yet, in person, you’re quite cheerful and jokey and silly. Am I compromising your image right now by telling people that? Because that’s the guy I know.
That’s who I think they know as well. I think it’s all pretty genuine. Everybody has those different sides.
It’s a weird thing. Everybody is their internet persona, their real-life persona, and then you have the persona you actually aspire to, whatever it is.
Let me ask you this: what defines a pro skater?
I guess, getting paid to do something because they’re good at it, and people enjoy it enough for you to get endorsed for it. That’s the definition of a professional, right?
But I don’t know what defines a skateboarder. There’re so many different types. And luckily, we have a lot of freedom and mobility to do what we want with being pro.
Unlike other professionals.
Do you ever think about how skateboarding began as a childhood hobby and how you could’ve just as easily got into BMX or something?
Oh yeah, of course. I could’ve been a scooter kid, could’ve been a biker, could’ve been smoking ice on the side of the road. I coulda been doing a bunch of things. It’s weird how it all ends up this way.
It truly is.
What’s been your favourite ‘Austyn’ product over the years: shoes, board graphics, wheels… ?
Well, the easiest way to answer that is Habitat.
Your stuff that came out on Habitat?
Yeah, because they raised me. I aligned with a lot of what Joe [Castrucci, Habitat founder] was doing. He was just a person you could trust and not have to worry about a single thing, and he would do everything in your best interest. But that was a different time when people took time to make somebody’s image look a certain way or make a project look a certain way. Where now, people don’t take time.
Everything seems a bit scattershot and silly these days, doesn’t it?
Kinda, yeah. I think that it was a more patient time when I was on Habitat. That would’ve been ten years ago, so people weren’t so content-hungry at that time. And Joe more are less designed my image and I didn’t really have to worry about it. I cared about it, but I trusted him, and that company built my name.
And after that you slowly became a bit of a lone wolf, right? You’re a bit of a solo flyer.
Yeah, I guess. There was a turning point where I realised, like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m not a focus or a priority at this or that brand. I should probably start developing something to maintain a certain…’ I wouldn’t say maintain a level of seriousness, but for people to take you seriously or for you to be… I don’t know. We can control how much we put out and the quality of that output, or we can leave it in somebody else’s hands; and I realised, ‘I’m already doing this. I’m already filming with the people that I want to film with, and I’m just handing it off to somebody to then do whatever they want, or I’m getting pushed aside because there’s younger kids getting on the team,’ and then I was like, ‘I don’t know if that’s the best move for me.’ So, there was a shift when I was probably twenty-two or twenty-three, where I started to realise that my name wasn’t just skateboarding or anything else—it was malleable.
Let us now talk about the upcoming Former video, Cheap Perfume. How did it come about?
Well, we grew up watching skate videos, and with the company and the people that ride for us, we wanted to make a sort of timeless contribution to the next generation of kids.
And you personally bankrolled this thing?
I’ve more or less self-funded this project, yeah. I’ve tapped into savings and personal savings and asked [favours from] a lot from close friends and musicians and people. There’s a lot behind it, and I’m really excited. Hopefully, folks will feel it and support it. We’ve travelled the whole god-damned world for a year straight to put this thing together. It’s been fucking hard. It’s been hard.
How much footage did you gather in that time?
Shit, I don’t know. We’re hoping the video is going to be about fifteen minutes.
Must be hard to distil a year’s worth of stuff down to fifteen minutes.
Yeah, I mean, you go to a different country, you spend all this money on accommodation and flights, all that stuff, and you come back with fifteen seconds, but it’s justifiable somehow. It’s just a weird thing. It’d be like if a musician went to write some demos and came back with a quarter of a song and they’re like, ‘Yeah, I feel good about that.’ It’s a weird process.
So, you’re almost done?
It’s pretty much there. The music’s getting cleared… I was trying to use only music from people that have passed away. I was able to get Leonard Cohen; I’m skating to Scott Walker; and then, Jamal (Gibbs) was going to skate to…
Wait, why are all the musicians on the soundtrack deceased?
I kinda wanted this video to be an ode to the people we’ve lost. I don’t know if the rest of the team knows that… I’m just incorporating that because I think it’s inspiring. It inspires me, anyway.
And your part has a Scott Walker song?
Can I guess which Scott Walker song?
You can try.
Well, it’s gotta be something from Scott 2.
Nope. Scott 4.
Scott 4 is pretty out-there.
Yeah, but it’s a feel-good little number; I think the only one on that record. That was his last album where he didn’t go completely fucking psycho; slapping meat in a closet and stuff.
Punching a dead pig. That was on The Drift, I think. He really went there.
So, you financed Cheap Perfume yourself?
Yeah, I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I don’t know. I was just like, ‘You know what? Fuck it.’ What’s it going to do when it goes into savings? Just sit there. I’d rather it go back into the thing that allowed me to receive it.
That justifies it. I wouldn’t have any of this if it wasn’t for skateboarding, so I might as well just give it right back and put out something I like. And hopefully, people will enjoy it. It’s an exciting time, and I feel like myself and everybody else has been skating better than they ever have. It’s motivating to be around these guys.
That’s awesome. Any surprises? Does Craig skate?
I hope so. He’s flying out soon, and I’m trying to get him to go skate with Jake (Anderson), get those pigeon legs out there and just watch them crumble. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be a sight.
Can Craig skate? I know Warren [Smith] can.
Yeah, Warren can skate, but I don’t know if it always crosses over.
With Former, do you feel compelled to know a bit about surf shit now?
I feel like I need to understand surfing, yeah; because we are a surf brand as well, so I feel obligated to do that. Dane knows more about skating than I fucking do. He knows the new videos that are coming out, he’s watching everything on Thrasher, whereas I could care less to watch anything, to tell you the truth. But Dane is on top of it. He’s doing his due diligence.
Can you surf?
Yeah, I can get up and do things and ride it and, you know, do the thing. It doesn’t look pretty.
Have you ever been in the green room?
I’ve never got in the garage, never did it.
Never been coned.
Coned? Isn’t that what Australians call smoking a bong?
Yeah, but you can also get coned in a wave. You can smoke cones while getting coned. How old are you now?
Where do you hope to be at thirty-eight?
Yeah, what do you want in ten years? A cabin in the woods?
I don’t want a cabin in the woods to hang out by myself. That sounds fucking terrible. I think my happiness is my mobility: if I’m able to move around and do things and I have momentum, then I’m fine with whatever that is. If I’m stuck physically, then I’m stuck mentally, and I think those two go hand in hand. So, whatever it is in the future, I hope that I’m…
Yeah. Either as mobile as I am now or even more mobile, with the tools to make things a bit easier. I don’t need too much, but it would be nice to be in a position where I could freely travel and share it with people, or raise the next set of people to do it. And I don’t know if that’s in skating or if it’s in surfing or if it’s in…
Yeah, or designing, or consulting. I love consulting. The idea of consulting is incredible. I love thinking about how you can make something actually cool and authentic. There’s a lot of people that do that job and have a lot of mobility and flexibility. That seems like a cool gig.
So, mobility and flexibility. That’s what you hope for in ten years. You don’t really want much. You just want what you already have, really. You just want to be mobile.
Yeah, I’m pretty grateful and pretty content with what I have at the moment. If I’m able to do this shit for another ten, I would be pretty excited. But right now, I figured why not take some fucking risks while I can? Take a big risk, learn from it, and then that will hopefully line me up for something else, but if I don’t take the risks right now before I’m thirty, then I won’t really learn anything.
Let’s wrap this up with an easy one: What’s the meaning of life? What are we here for? What’s it all about?
It’s all about practising the golden rule.
What’s the golden rule?
Treat others as you’d like to be treated.
That’s a good rule to live by.
It really is. But then again, the golden rule could just be a bubbler. That’s where you pee into your mouth.
I know, I have a hot bubbler every morning.
People think it’s for comedy, but there are actually health benefits to it.
Last question: how should we be approaching the year 2020 and beyond?
God, I don’t know. I only know how I approach shit.
How do you approach it?
When I wake up, I’m like, ‘What can I do with my day? How much can I get done since, you know, I’m alive?’ That’s how I look at shit. I don’t want to sit around.
What about smelling the flowers?
You can smell the flowers along the way. You take a break, have a smell, and then you get back into it.
See more from Monster Children Issue 66 by picking up a copy here—and we’re letting you choose what you pay!