In this extended interview from our "Worldwide Underground" article in Color 11.1, Jai Ball breaks down his vision for Studio Skateboards and what it means to be an independent skater-owned company from Canada.
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Canada has a unique industry with a variety of companies. What about Studio makes it reflect what’s going on with your scene?
I always wanted Studio to visually embody that big city aesthetic I grew up in and loved. Being from Montreal, as kids we were always stoked on NYC, Philly and Washington. Those cities had scenes and a vibe we related to. In terms of the team and skating, it seemed Canada was typically represented a certain way and if you didn't fit that handrail, stair skating mold you weren't gonna go too far. At least that's how I always felt. I wanted Studio to be for the others skaters, the guys who interpret the city they're from with some sort of style and originality, be it Montreal, Vancouver or wherever.
How much of an international response have you gotten and where can people pick up the boards outside of Canada?
When Mood Lighting premiered on SLAP the response was great, Hella Clips too. I don't think there was one bad online comment, that I saw, which is pretty shocking in these days of raging messege board hate. I got emails from kids in Europe and the Czech Republic who were stoked and wanted a copy of the video. Outside of Canada, Supreme will be carrying them in New York and I'm working on the rest! If any International distributors are interested shoot me an email! I'll have a new online store for spring as well.
Grab a couple of these gems in the Studio online store
What companies did you look up to when you were coming up with Studio?
There's definitely some old mid 90s Zoo York in there and its hard to avoid that Alien and Habitat Photosynthesis era as well. We were looking at that end of the spectrum in terms of inspiration.
What are some of the pros and cons of making web only edits vs DVDs?
For web, the pros are: reach, accessibility and cost. Especially for a smaller company looking for as much exposure as possible. I still feel you need to do both for the bigger projects. If you have it in your hands, you watch it more; I've never heard the opposite. The tangible quality of a DVD or Blu Ray in terms of a skater's collection is undeniable. You watch it around your flat screen with a few buds and it's a rad, classic skate experience. DVDs are so cheap to make now too, so kids can buy it in the shop for 10 or 15 bucks, or you can just give them away with magazines or boards. And for smaller promos or ads, online is there for you. The true issue is quality ideas and production and it needs to be there whether it's full lengths, DVDs or web edits.
This no nonsense message from the Studio site says it all.
Has the popularity of other smaller brands helped Studio get into new shops?
I think there's a movement towards DIY companies done by real skaters, and the right shops that know are backing it. Quebec always had a few local brands due to the proximity to manufacturing. When Studio started there were like five brands in Quebec alone. It almost had a negative impact because shops felt like they carried enough local stuff. We had to prove that we were more than just product and then doors opened. Outside of Quebec I definitely related to what Geoff Dermer was doing with Kitsch in Vancouver and we helped motivate each other to keep pushing. Eventually, shops started to mention us in the same sentence and I think that helped.
The Mood Lighting video was something different and a shift from what we’ve normally seen. There is a real timeless feel to it. What made you want to make a film like that instead of following the trends?
I think you should always do what is true to you and feels right, whether it's your skating or your videos. I've always liked old movies from the 70s and skate videos from the 90s. We were filming on a VX1000 and Super 8 camera, so that set a certain tone visually. When it came time to edit the video with my creative partner and editor Jason Auger, I had the songs and an idea of something stripped down that made you wanna go skate. Jason understood exactly what I meant and worked his magic from there. In terms of the trends, it's like anything else, they're just agreed upon by a few people and become the norm. You can always do exactly what you want.
How much should a graphic reflect the rider?
I think you wanna try and reflect the rider whenever you can and a good idea is there. I think its easier to do when you make less boards as well, so I try to take advantage of that as much a possible.
With the move to Vancouver will the company get a more West Coast feel to it?
I find that visually Vancouver has a lot of the same architecture, grit and back alleys that inspired me in Montreal. Most of the team is back east as well, so in terms of the over all feel, it's never gonna change. If I moved to San Diego, then I'd be worried!
Visit Isaac McKay-Randozzi online at mydumbluck.com