Based around shapely boards and striking graphics, WELCOME skateboards continues to break the rules on what a skate company can be. With nary a popsicle stick in their lineup, these diverse shapes recall an era of money bumps, early grabs, slappies and when everything was new and still golden. A team of friends, they are seekers of fun. The following is a conversation with their leader—The Minister of Majic.
"I will bleed for them and my soul is in every single thing that we are making."
Nolan Johnson, boneless [ o ] yaqubian
What is the Latin phrase that is on the top of every WELCOME board about? ("qui nos opprimere velint, illos libertor devoramus")
I steal a lot from pop culture but what I steal are things that I am feeling deeply at the time, so I will often put my slant on it. That is the correct latin phrase for: "we gladly feast on those who would subdue us," which was in a Adam's Family movie. (It wasn't correct in the movie... gibberish).
Why make a company that only sells shapely boards? There is not a single popsicle stick in your catalog?
Popsicles look kinda stupid and boring to me. I think each time you put a board together it should be a ceremony and something that gets you excited to try it out...not just a monotonous action of just what works for you. We make what we ride and besides if you know about leverage points and how skateboard dimensions work together to make a board ride a certain way they often (always) are more functional that popsicles anyway. I also like how the shapes I make works with my artwork. It all works together to create a magical bond for the rider to exploit.
Do you get pissed when you see other companies following your lead with shaped decks?
Only when they previously had no interest in it before and would have probably made fun of us a year ago for what we like to ride. It doesn’t really matter because from what I have seen thus far they make them crappy with no understanding of functionality.
The boards are in many shops, how has the response been and how much support from regular skaters have you seen?
Awe-SUM... I am shocked sometimes by who gets into us and supports us. However I think people can feel that I will bleed for them and my soul is in every single thing that we are making. I don't run this like a company, I think of us as a band that needs to pour their hearts out in each record or you will let down your listeners.
Would you ever do a collaboration board with a shop?
Sure, if we had the time… still just me doing everything. I am already spread too thin.
Will there be a WELCOME video and what format would it come out on?
Yes, with a lot of acting in it too. I want to tell a story. I have no idea how to accomplish this but that is the plan. DVD would be cool but if it means I can't have the music I want (due to copyright) then it will live on the internetz.
While you have a team full of rippers that no one has heard of (aside from Mango’s brief internet fame and Nolan’s "Something Else" in Thrasher), how did the team take shape?
I have skated with Nolan forever and he is one of my all time favourite skaters. With that, everything has come together very organically. I think we have a group of friends who feel the same way I do about how stale and jockish the skateboard industry has become. They are here because they really want to be and not for what we are going to do for them. I don't think any of them care about being "sponccerdz" and I didn't pick any of them because I thought it was going to help us sell skateboards. I just wanted all my favourite skaters to ride for WELCOME and I didn't care if the magazines didn't know who they were. These are the most talented, creative and warm hearted gentlemen (or lady) on the planet. I wouldn't trade a single one of them for anyone on any other brand. I want artists not athletes or stuntmen. Be a god... create something.
The WELCOME team
How do you pass along the stoke to the next generation?
Seems presumptuous to think we are doing anything important for the next generation. You either want constant progression to the point where skateboarding can be quantified and qualified (a sport) or you want it to be about a sub culture of creativity and fun which is the side of the fence we live on. I know if it becomes only about being the best then any non skater can come in and run the industry. It will be easy for them to understand and control. They can't control a fucking thing I am doing because I don't even know what I am doing. I want those to get to know us to either become admirers or our enemies. See I am lifting pop culture again.
As someone who is inspired by past and forefathers, what has been one of the most important things you've learned about skating?
I learned that there is nothing like it on planet. I try to get pragmatic at times and attempt to break down what is so addicting about rolling around on a little toy. But really it's just everything... It's the fun, music, friends, humor, creativity, art, aggression, challenge, erotism, necrophelia, etc.
If money isn't the motivation, what is?
Making a single brand that had all things I wanted from a skateboard company. Nothing less and nothing more.
Do you think board graphics, as a whole have been watered down over the years?
Yeah of course, but there is some cool stuff now from Stefan Naranic. So that makes up for all the bad graphic design garbage that has been the standard.
Is the industry slowly eating itself alive?
One can only hope, but really as long as we can do what we are doing, I don’t care what anyone else is doing.
Get more acquainted with WELCOME and support independent skateboarding by buying up a copy of the new COLOR 11.1
"Worldwide Underground" spread from Color 11.1 (Spring)
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