We usually have our guards up when it comes to skateboarders who go to the extreme with corporate companies. We always saw them as people who sugar-coat skateboarding and sell out for more money and opportunities. The whole reason we run Get Born is to shine light on the creatives, outsiders, skate nerds, and local heroes who put value and authenticity into skateboarding, not the dude who's making marketing deals with Zumiez. That shit aside, there was no way I was going to turn down the opportunity to interview Paul Rodriguez.
It was a pretty predictable scene walking into the room for the interview. P-Rod was surrounded by his press and marketing people as they were trying to sweat every inch of product advertisement out of him... “Pose like you're enjoying the drink,” they say as P-Rod stands in front of a camera pretending to sip an energy drink that probably wasn't even opened. I immediately turned to the girls: “What the fuck are we doing here.” We were almost about to turn around and walk out the back door but one of the press associates took our hands and introduced us to everyone in the room, including Paul. We were too deep in it to back out. After a few handshakes, we got the room’s attention and started up the interview. Surprisingly, talking to Paul about the concept behind We Are Blood made me realize that he’s not too far from the skate rat or nerd that I previously doubted he was. He is literally just the most focused dude I have ever talked to, and his vision to show skateboarding to the rest of the world is honestly inspiring. Although I don't agree with some of his corporate business values, I do agree with the fact that if you love skateboarding and it's the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before bed, then you are more than fit to be an influential representative for the industry. After conducting this interview I was able to put my preconceptions aside and realize that, through all of his label-throwing and product marketing, P-Rod is making an effort to embody the passion of skateboarding and with good intentions nonetheless.
GB: What was your motivation behind the project "We Are Blood"?
My motivation for this film was to do something bigger and more grand. I have been very fortunate to have been making skate videos for the past 15 years that a lot of people have seen. I've done... I don’t know, 13 or 14 video parts, that were all just core skate parts and they all just kept reaching the same audience. That’s really cool and I'm very happy but I wanted to approach a wider audience. So I was like, okay, what am I going to do? Film another video part and show it to the same people? I feel like I have been fortunate that I have been around long enough to the point where I have nothing to prove anymore. It's like, okay, I have proven myself and I have established myself so I was like, aight well why am I just going to film another part just because? I was feeling very enthusiastic about that and then Ty Evans hit me up a couple of years ago and he was feeling the same way I was feeling but on the other side - the filmmaking side. He was like, "I made all these skate films and all these skate videos and it was all for the same audience and we hit the roof... and we were just knocking on the roof and were not breaking through; let’s just do something different." So that was the motivation. It just so happened that [Ty] was feeling similar to how I was feeling. He happened to call me when he was working with this new company Brain Farm and said he wanted to do this really big film and he laid it out for me. I went to his house and he had it all planned out on his wall, a whole storyboard and everything. I was like, “This is it, this is what I’ve been thinking about" ...it was like the law of attraction you know.
So can you tell us more about the concept of the film?
Yeah, so the whole vibe we are trying to get across is that skateboarding--you know--you may see people out there flipping their board around doing tricks, but it goes deeper than just flipping your board around--this is a lifestyle. When I was a kid I would sleep with my board and that’s no joke. I would go to bed with my board, and if I got a new pair of shoes I would go to sleep with them on. I didn’t watch regular TV, I would just watch skate videos. I didn’t read books but I would read magazines...skate magazines--it's like the whole world did not exist to me. I only lived in this world of skateboarding and I feel like that’s what happens to most skateboarders who fall in love with skateboarding. You literally just get so consumed by it. And so we really want to celebrate that, as skateboarders, this is more than just flipping a piece of wood. This is what we fell in love with, here it is, it’s more than just a surface level thing. You can come from any type of background--any type of person, male or female--and you can travel the world and meet a skateboarder and under regular circumstances you would have nothing in common, never see yourselves hanging out, but then all of a sudden you skate and boom--we’re best friends. We have nothing else in common but that’s more than enough to make the bond. So that’s why we call it We Are Blood because skateboarding and skaters as a whole look at it like a family; we are within a skateboard family and skateboarding is the blood that connects us, so that kind of is more or less the theme.
Is that what you would consider the most important part of skateboarding? If not, what makes skateboarding important to you?
You know it's hard to say, I have never thought of it in that way but it’s hard to pick just one aspect of skateboarding and say, “Hey this is the most important thing”. For me it's just getting on my board and riding. The connection--whether I am skating with 10 of my best friends or if I am skating by myself--I can still, depending on my mood, have the time of my life in either circumstance. For me it's all about the act of physically getting on your board and expressing yourself. For me that’s the most important part because without the actual getting up and doing it then none of the other stuff really exists and I know that seems like an obvious answer but skateboarders are very critical people. We are the first people to call each other out and say, “You're lame, you're wack, you're this, you're that,” you know? We are the first people to say that, so I noticed that a lot of times people who are the most opinionated, especially with negative opinions, are the people who are actually on their board the least. It's like what do you mean, I'm the one riding my skateboard while you're sitting at home on the computer, consuming your day and night just watching other people ride the skateboard and then you're gonna sit here and have opinions about all of it? You're not even on the board! I mean I say that because I notice that it happens a lot.
Are you excited to be in Chicago?
I'm excited to see all the guys, all the homies. Catch up with some people that I don't get to see often. This is Chaz’s (Ortiz) hometown so I get to see Chaz do his thing at home. The new park (Grant Park) looks really nice also, I think we are going there after this.
And you're from California right?
Yeah, born and raised.
Do you think that there is anything important about supporting your local skate scene?
Always. Because you can't grow up in a skate scene if it's not local because wherever you're at, that's local to you. I couldn't have started skateboarding by the Chicago skate scene 'cause I was in California haha you know? So of course! You have to keep it alive or else this thing that you do does not exist. I think it’s important but I don't think it necessarily needs to be - and I could be wrong, other people might have different opinions about it - but in my mind it's like by going out and riding your skateboard is supporting your scene, because that's doing it. I don't think it necessarily has to be a subject that needs to be spoken about. People say, “You got to support your local skate scene,” like what does that even mean? ‘Skate scene’ is just a series of people who ride their skateboards, so what do you mean ‘support’? If you guys are out riding, then you guys are the scene, the scene is strong, just skate, enjoy it, have fun. The more you skate, the more the boards are going to wear down and break, then the kids are going to have to go his local skate shop 'cause why would he go somewhere further, and he's gonna get his board. His shoes are going to eventually wear down so he's gonna have to go to the shop and get his shoes. As long as kids are out there doing the physical act of skateboarding everything else will thrive. Saying, “You have to support your local skate scene,” I don't even know what that means. I don’t know, I mean I'm out skating, I don't know what you're saying but I'm out riding my board so that is the scene.
What's your take on where the industry has been going within the last couple of years? Does it concern you that the industry is losing a lot of its core value for aiming at more of a mass appeal? Almost making skateboarding look like a popularity contest to a lot of kids.
Nah, I mean I don't care if skateboarders are the least-liked people or the coolest people or whatever. That's the thing, like for me, I never got too tied up in that or if it's too mainstream or if it's too core, and sell out or not sell out. I never got too tied up in that because it all comes back to, “Whatever, you guys can talk about that all day but I'm skating,” you know? I'm on my board riding it. So that's all I'm focusing on: the joy of the actual action and activity of riding my skateboard. If you think I'm cool, awesome, it’s a good ego boost and it feels nice. If you don't think I'm cool then that's fine also, I'm still enjoying it and loving it. I never got too caught up in being like, “Man let's keep it core so it's just kept to us,” or I never got too caught up in, “Man its so blown up now I don't want to be a part of it 'cause everybody does it,”. If that's the way you’re looking at it then you might be viewing skateboarding as a trend but it's not a trend for me, this is my life, this is what I live for. No different than having to go eat lunch later, I got to skate. Otherwise I feel like I'm gonna die you know?