I paved a retrospective path with the number one “shredder with a smile”, Daniel Lutheran. We talked about how he turned pro for Ed Templeton’s bloodsucking skateboard company, Toy Machine, the filming for his part in the Vans’ first full-length video “Propeller,” and why “skate life is a great life.” Not only is Daniel an amazing skateboarder, he has a very keen eye for art, particularly photography. Along with this interview, Daniel has provided us with an exclusive selection of his photos, each accompanied by a short blurb describing the story behind the image in his own words.
Get Born: So you grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What was it like skating out there? And, other than you and your little brother, how many people from over there made it in skateboarding?
Daniel Lutheran: Good question. Well, growing up in Albuquerque, the skate scene was so epic. It's pretty diverse but also pretty popular to skate here. I wanted to be like my older brothers, and they were skaters so I would just kick it with those bros and kind of just roam the town, you know? It was nice, bunch of skate spots, bunch of good weather, and a bunch of good times involved with skating. As far as people blowing up from here... I mean I have a different idea of what people blowing up means, but dudes like DJ Chavez and Ryan Simonetti grew up here. I love DJ, he's so unique, he's popular in skating. These are people that I don't know if everyone knows them or not. Rocky Norton is from here, he's big-time to me. Ben Woosley, Mr. New Mexico. I don't know if you know him, but that's Benny boy. Tyler Imel, aka SQUINTS—he grew up down the street—he's ripping and blowing up. Jake Johnson, definitely big time, shoot he's pure legend.
So, while you were in Albuquerque, what motivated you to go to California? Did you always know that you wanted to make that move?
Yeah, so badly. I mean if I wasn't going for skating I was going for the beach or school. I just had to see the beach. Shoot, the dream was real, it all seemed like it was there, you know? Seemed like California had everything. Growing up inland, you hear about it and maybe get to go every now and again in the summer. It's like... I don't know, it has some magnetism.
Was it difficult for you to make that transition coming from the Southwest?
It seemed like it was way doable, then not at the same time. Maybe this is unknown, but I went to California once for school and I moved in with Mr. New Mexico. I was kinda trying to skate and be in skating and stuff, but go to school as well. Failed miserably, haha. I dropped out of school and I left like three months later. I was like, “This place is crazy.” I was in Huntington Beach, bless my heart. Then I came back to Albuquerque and just worked at the local skate shop and stuff. The transition was a little bit difficult for me. Still is.
So how old were you when you moved back to California?
I met J Lay and Mike Sinclair and Angel, Matt Bennett, a crew of people in Albuquerque when they came through on a road trip. I wanna say I was 19? I've known them all for like 6 hours and I invited them all over to my parent's house for a barbecue. Johnny, being the best dude in the world, says “I got an extra room. You can move to Long Beach, come on out.” I was in disbelief for sure. He told my mom before I told anyone. Haha yeah, Johnny put me in the game. I owe a lot to him.
So your first break into the industry was being flow for Toy Machine right? How did you get on the team?
Yeah. Well, I was working on these videos parts back home locally with my buds Jonathan and Johnny and I just wanted to get on Toy Machine so badly. I had a couple outlets, like Rocky Norton sent a video out for me, I myself sent a video out. I went to the Toy Machine website and sent the video to the contact page. Meanwhile—I didn't even know—I got picked for the online part for The Skateboard Mag and Josh Harmony had seen it. We didn't even know one another at the time and he was like, “Hey guys we should check this dude out.” There were a few different channels working towards it. One of them being me just trying like a kid, you know? Like, “Can I get shot?” Eventually all of it came together. Then I got on flow.
Why did you choose to send your tapes to Toy Machine instead of all the other companies out there?
I'm pretty weird and I sensed that it was the right place for me. It’s a home for the freaks and I’ve looked up to all those dudes forever. They had done a demo throughout town, every single Toy Machine video is so good, and every ad is a masterpiece hand done by Ed. Just the level of stuff, it's an artistic, creative brand, beyond the skateboard company. I like all those factors. It's a bit weird, it's a bit freaky, and it's a bit more than skating, but it's always backed by the best skating. I wanted to get in the vibe, somewhere that I thought I could be at home. Realistically I had one other outlet if I couldn't get on Toy Machine: I wanted to send my stuff to Krooked. I don't know if you can see the correlation there, but it's just creative, skater-owned, artistic vibes. I just wanted to get somewhere I could be expressive and genuine.
Do you remember the first time you met Ed Templeton?
Yeah yeah, there's nothing even spectacular about it. At this junction I moved in with Leo [Romero]. I went from Johnny's to Matt Bennett's, Matty B put me on too. He said if I ever wanted to get out of the suburbs to come on out, because Johnny lived in the suburbs and Matt lived by the beach. I stayed with Matty B for a while and then I was on a trip in North Carolina with Leo (my first trip) and he's like, “You can live with me, man,” and I didn't know if he was serious or not. I was like, “You mean it? Do you mean it?” haha and he's like, “Yeah when we get back.” So I moved in with Leo and he'd take me to SoleTech skate park. One day Leo said Ed's going to come skate. So I met Ed and just small talked with him. I was stoked to just shred the park with him.
Did you start developing a relationship with him after you turned pro? Or did you guys chill when you were flow?
That's a good question. With Ed, he's got his whole life going outside of skating and everything. So he's a busy dude. I like to think that we've established our relationship in the middle of that and me working to get on the team. Kinda slowly going through all this crazy skate stuff we've gotten to know one another and connect on mutual levels.
Ed's an exceptionally talented artist and, just like you said earlier, there's definitely a heavy artistic vision within the company. In what way do you feel like you fit in with that aspect of the company?
I'm wild and I love art, haha. Cheesy as it sounds. I like it all, I like creating and I like all the things that are expressive. I appreciate that everyone on Toy Machine is artistic, creative, and expressive. I fit the same mold just by trying to create things or play music or do design or whatever it might be. Write something, sing something. I just fit into that little genre where I like the artsy life, the far less boring ways. Nothing cheesy, just unique, fun expression.
It seems like you're someone who's really grounded and always practicing the art of staying true to your roots. What does the meaning of home signify to you?
I really appreciate you saying that, that's so kind. I’m just as jacked as the next soul. I just have a lot of things to be grateful for I guess. I think I’m just aware that I am living a really good life off this stuff. What is the meaning of home for me? It means being around energies, like my family, my friends here, my whole environment that helped create whatever personality I have. I wouldn't be the same person if I was not from Albuquerque, New Mexico, you know? I'm staying right in the foothills of the mountains and it's gorgeous. I say the answer is energy. I don't mean to be all cosmic, I just feel good about it. I go through phases where I see myself as doing all right and then the next phase I’m super jacked, so I have to tuck it back and try to be better. The goal is to be better every day. Not anything in particular, but be better than what I just did yesterday. All these energies from here really help me see how great life is and how blessed I really have been.
What are your key essentials to living a life that you love?
Definitely having my family in my life as much as I can. Being by Andrew. Being around my friends here and the friends that I've made in skating. They're family now, they're like a catalyst for all this creative stuff and my growths. I like caring for loved ones, having a special someone. Books, movies, music, skateboarding, design, travel, arts, and imagination freedoms. Its ever changing. I don't feel pigeonholed into this little box like, “Oh you're a skater boy you do these things because you skate. You like metal music, beer and you gotta do this”, you know? I can be anything I want in life with these proper essentials surrounding me. The list could go on forever, I'm inspired by a lot.
Who is a skateboarder or company that you've always idolized and how did they play a role in where you came to be today?
Shoot, so many, I mean I love Nick Trapasso. I think Trapasso is one of the raddest, most original skateboarders. He definitely marches to the beat of his own wild drum. I tend to admire far-out people. Jon Dickson, Chima, Crockett, Brendan O'brien, Julian Davidson, Provost, Muska, Figgy, and Matt B. You could say I idolize them. The list could go on throughout this whole interview. They each inspire hard work in skating and being who you truly are, they've embraced keeping skating personalized and each carry themselves in a true-to-form manner. That helps me want to do the same– make skating my personal vehicle of expression.
What advice would you give to a kid who's trying to pursue a career that you embody? Something you wish someone could have told you when you were at a young age?
It's important to know that if you do get to a zone where you're successful, just keep working harder and keep on doing what you wanna do. I think it's hard for people to get into a window where you're in the public view and you get judged and critiqued nonstop. So you start maybe flying into zones where it's safer, but don't be safe, just keep being yourself. Work hard, be enthusiastic and believe in yourself. Truly believe in what you're doing. I think it's easy to get battered down by society’s stereotypes. Fuck that. Just keep shining, you know, no matter what, so long as its positive light. The main thing I wish someone would've told me is that it's cool to care. We're in a society/industry where people make it seem like it's not cool to care. That’s false. You can be lucid and wild and do amazing things and meanwhile truly care about people and yourself and all the things that you do. It’s cool to care. And just know that you're so fortunate to be doing it if you're doing it. We all are.
In one of your interviews with Thrasher back in the day, you said that when you were a kid skating, you never connected professionalism with money. It always meant skill to you, but as you grew older and turned pro, how did that perspective on skating change?
I think it's just growing up I guess. My dad told me a saying: “It's not about the money, but it is about the money.” Meaning you need money to survive and that's fine, it's cool to make some ducks, but at the same time, do it for the love. Professionalism comes to a whole new realm when you get to a certain zone. It's not just being skilled and making money, it's being aware and expanding, accepting responsibilities. Embracing the whole thing and really caring about what you do. Taking it to a level where it's yours, whether you're skating that day or not, you treat it professionally I guess. It's how you carry yourself, I suppose. You embody the whole thing to the best of your ability and continue to step it up.
What's your favorite part that you've ever filmed?
When I was younger I filmed with my friend Jonathan Nelson and we made this part for his movie called “Surprise, Surprise”. That one is pretty special to me and at the cusp of being a kid about to enter into all this. It holds a special spot in my mind. But Propeller is the hardest I have worked for something, highest caliber and the most satisfying form of expression I've ever got to put out. That one might be my favorite to date, being that it is more to me than a skate part.
How was filming for Propeller?
Insanely amazing. Working with Greg [Hunt] and Cody [Green], Ryan, Jack and the Vans boys, the whole family, that's beyond, I can't even say how special that is for me. There is so much passion in there, tons of years of our growth and hard work. When it was finished, I put into perspective how much of a selfless artist Greg truly is. He made it an art form from day one. Through all my trials and tribulations he stuck with me, only to express something, that in the end, I would love to embody my career. I'm not just saying that, he put in a wholehearted effort to express who each of us are and want to be, and left out all my flaws and jacked traits. It was one of the greatest experiences in my life making that movie with Vans.
It's crazy that it's the first full-length Vans has ever made. Is it cool knowing that you played a part in a major skateboarding video?
Yeah, I haven't even gotten to that zone. I still have a childlike perspective on being in the video with all these guys. I seriously admire and respect and have looked up to them for a long time. To be in a video with [Geoff] Rowley and AVE, Chima [Ferguson] and [Gilbert] Crockett, it's a perspective for sure. Trujillo! I'm smiling right now when I say it. It's special to me, so special. People do such great things in life and skaters do such epic things, it's all so cool. I'm not at the tip-top and I don't even know what it means to be, you know? I'm just a straight up fan of a lot of these guys and happy I got to be in the mix. I know that what we’re doing is super fortunate, but it's so fleeting too, it could be gone and it could be there and it could not be. You work so hard and then it’s not there. I just try and be real about it. I see how hard my parents work, I see how hard school teachers and doctors and musicians work. I think they're doing big things and I’m just getting this dream life for a little while, how cool.
Do you ever get a sense of meaning or accomplishment after skating?
Oh hell yeah. Accomplishment so much. It’s hard to articulate it, but that's one of the main reasons I do these things. Nobody can even relate unless they do it, whether skating or a different form. You can't really describe it or touch it. You'll be fighting this extreme war in your body and head and no one knows. People could be watching you and it looks all crazy to them, or maybe casual, but only you know. You go to a personal battle ground for hours and it flies by in 3 seconds on film haha. It's the rawest me vs. me situation every time. What else is like that? Its rare, that feeling of beating yourself, I don't know much to compare to that sort of triumph.
I can't imagine skating with a filmer or anything like that. I feel like that would add so much pressure to the fun of it. I can't imagine what that would be like.
Yeah for real it depends. I'll lose it, especially when I’m getting in the realm of my own demons. You wanna put out your best, something you're proud of. You're pushing yourself, the filmers and photographers are pushing themselves and it's like us vs. this thing. That whole mentality is like a life tool. You learn so much more than just skating. If you can win these little or big battles, you learn so much about yourself. I don't mean to keep saying special, but it is pretty special. I don't know many other things that are done on a day-to-day basis where you challenge yourself so much. I don't know whether physically or mentally if there's other stuff out there that compares to what we're talking about. It’s magical.
You definitely have to have a hunger to take things to the next level with yourself.
Absolutely, and to answer about the pressure, I lose it. I crumble up badly sometimes. It's so funny. You gotta ask Cody Green if you wanna know, or Greg. I filmed with Kevin Barnett a bunch, my team mangers know, Jamie Hart knows, everybody knows, haha. An Lu knows it about me, all these guys. Shoot, you can't always just put on a smile and not feel any pressure and just be out there. Unfortunately that's just not always the case. If you wanna do your best, pressure is a very real thing.
How do you keep yourself sane through it all? What inner abilities do you use to put on a smile and just go out and do it?
Am I sane? Haha perspective, for sure. I love movies so much and I always just wanna exist in movies. There's this one called “Fury” and it's about these guys in an army tank. It's so epic, but these guys are seriously on their deathbed being ambushed by the Nazis and Brad Pitt just stands up and is like, “We’re gonna fight em, we're gonna do it!” and all the guys are so scared and probably gonna die, but they all look at one another and all the boys one after another say, “Best job I ever had,” and mean it. It's just that perspective I'm trying to find. Like I’ll be laying on the ground freaking out and then I think about it like, “Best job I ever had.” People are out doing boring stuff or extremely serious professions with real pressures and I'm out travelling the world and fulfilling my dreams. I get to make a living off something that I’m really passionate about. If I can find that train of thought then I’m good to go. That's when I feel the most successful too. All this stuff sounds righteous, but I can't say that I stay in that mindset all the time. Im sensitive, I freak out, I get jaded, I’ll throw down, and I’ll crumble mentally sometimes. I get impatient, sometimes I feel eyeballs on me and I just get ornery, I lose sight. But with proper perspective I keep going positively.
How is skate life different from any other kind of existing life out there? Do you see life differently than the normal, average human?
I think my eyes are pretty big, whatever that means. There's no monotony in the skate life, unless you let it happen. Things are always so different and constantly changing. I'm unsure that the guy who's bagging groceries doesn't feel bored or monotonous you know? It gives me a consistent flow of change. Shoot, it helps my flow of creative abilities, mindset, keeps my eyes wide, and helps my perspective grow. Skating at the level where you're travelling and stuff, it just keeps you wide open. You're not going to be able to compare it to anything else, unless there's other independent travelers who can relate. Like, the guy at Starbucks doesn't get to go to Australia fulfilling dreams and the next day Berlin for more and then Amsterdam, etc. Or maybe he does, I don't know. There's not very many careers where you get to do that, travel with acquired family doing what you love experiencing the sweet consistent change.
What are things that you do to keep yourself grounded and honest to yourself?
Well I honestly don't know that I am, so I just try to work on it every day. I talk to my brothers, my dad and mom, my grounded friends who I really respect. I like to read, philosophy, create, and think. I have goals and admire people whom I see as grounded and honest. I try to take a piece of all those good influences so that I’m able to pick and choose and mix it all into a melting pot. Then each day I hope to express some of that. The main thing is that I know this is a dream come true and to be doing this and is such a blessing. You can be the best in the world and still not get the same shot and I’m aware of that.
What does that tell you about the bonds that people share through skateboarding?
It just tells me that it's really amazing. There are so many passionate people meeting over one love. Skateboarding is universal. As cheesy as that sounds, you immediately relate. You have that grounding in your life, where you can relate because you skate too. It’s like you skate and I skate and I don't care if you're a boy, girl, black, white, from Mars or Earth, or anything. You skate and I skate and that's universal. We share a love. You don't even have to speak the same language. I've hung out with people where we can't even say anything to each other, we just skate and smile or give a high five. That's pretty special. I say everything's special, cause it is, haha.
We're covering really special topics, so I think it's pretty accurate, haha.
Yeah I think so. I think it’s fun to really express how great it is. Shoot, people should hear how cool it is. I have enough self-doubt to wonder if I’m the person that should be expressing it to people. I’ll tell you one thing, with interviews I’m always a little bit on edge. I wanna say things, but nothing too self-righteous. To express yourself in this day and age you don't know what someone perceives you as or who is a gimmick or anything. I think it's watered down so much that people don't know what to believe in. And I never want to be a part of that. I never want to be in that scheme. A couple of my friends and I have been talking about that lately. There's a lack of belief in what people are doing. Someone puts up whatever, like, money or a pretty girl or cool new clothes and take a photo and put it on Instagram, when really they are just sitting at their house dying for something more substantial. You just wish you could have a conversation with somebody special or relatable.
I agree. I think It's crazy how much skateboarding is changing and how personalities within skateboarding are adapting to that change. The industry is losing a lot of its artistic touch. That's why I wanted to interview you because I know that you're an artistic and very humble person and that's what we wanna showcase to people, you know?
I really appreciate that. I accepted because I know you interviewed [Chris] Nieratko and he put in a good word for you. Honestly you're doing something so cool. It's mutual, just anybody creating and believing in what they're doing, you're already winning. Skateboarding will be alright, you got Gilbert Crockett, skateboarding's going to be alright as long as Crockett stays. You got Dickson and Leo. All my friends here in Albuquerque who skate. Chima [Ferguson], shoot, that alone. You got all these guys. Johnny Layton, Ed T, BA, Gonz. Skateboardings going to be alright. There's real things left, it's just what people decide to perceive. If everybody backtracks and really starts supporting what's true and what the artistic side is we would prevail a lot more. I'm unsure of that happening. I think the big promotion schemes that go out are going to be different.
Yeah I don't think skateboarding could ever totally lose it's authentic touch. Like you said, there's so many people that are real with it. But It is kind of scary to see where the industry is going, at least a little bit.
Oh of course, yeah, but this is the time frame and we are in it. If you go back and look at journalism, I'm sure that's changed too and now you're in this time frame. You can't just keep going back. It doesn't really equate that well. Everything's ever-changing, so it's fair. The fact of the matter is you can still pick and choose what is real. If you believe in it, that's what makes it still prevail and happening. Toy Machine alone is fine. That's one of the things that skateboarding should be proud of. Companies that are true to themselves. Anywhere you can be yourself and that's actually what is promoted and that's what people fall in love with, then you win. There's no corporate scheme, there's no makeup, there's no nothin'. It's just bare bones and it's just what it is.