A. Hero’s Welcome: Brian Anderson Interview

Brian Anderson has some news that he’d like to share with all of you:

He’s on a team again!

The Good Problem got ahold of our favorite Antihero to talk about getting on companies, breaking up with family, and what it means to be a. hero in the face of all that is dangerous and stupid in 2016. —Kevin Wilkins

Say his name. Photo: Jon Humphries

TGP: Turning pro and getting a board is every skater’s dream, and you’ve ridden for some dream companies—Toy Machine, Girl, and your own 3D Skateboards. How does getting a board with Antihero compare to those milestones?

BA: It’s equal, if not more incredible. I don’t want to ever take anything away from those other three sponsors, of course. Those were separate, magic times. Incredible times. But it feels great. I’ll tell you a little sidebar. I mean, I just hung out with those [Antihero] guys recently. They came to New York. I got to spend a couple days in the van with them. We went to New Jersey and then out to Long Island and skated a bunch of pools. And I felt like, wow, I’m on a team again. This is so cool.

You first met those guys during Beauty & The Beast?

Well, I’d lived in San Francisco for a while. That’s where I met Mickey Reyes and that’s where I became friends with Julien [Stranger], [Tony] Trujillo, and John Alden … and Frank [Gerwer] was out living there, too. I was already friends with Frank from way, way back.

Something I want to point out that I think felt so good, too, is that there are so many fans of Antihero who are probably saying, “What? They just put this gay dude on?” And hopefully that will change people’s minds. I mean, just today I was like, “Oh, wait a minute. We go to some wild skateparks and shit. I hope some drunk dude doesn’t go, ‘That’s a faggot!’” I have to get ready for that, because it’s probably going to happen. You know, the whole van is going to be like, “Shut the fuck up, dude.” And we might get in some fights because of me. (laughs) I’m not scared, but I’m thinking, “Damn, I’ve got to keep my guard up.”

But I’ll tell you, Bear—Chris Hafner—was in a bar a long time ago when I was first coming out, and Julien was sitting next to him. Julien always loved Girl, but he did say, “If they fucking kick him off for being gay, I’ll put him on Antihero tomorrow morning.” I swear he said that, and Bear told me, “Dude, I always thought that was so fucking cool.” We’re all throwing back beers, raging, breaking stuff, and jumping fences. So it’s like, I’m the same as them. I just happen to like dudes. (laughs)

Hurricane Brian makes landfall in SF. Photo: Jon Humphries

Tell me about getting on Toy Machine.

Okay. So this is the very beginning. I am guessing this is ’97. I can’t remember. Donny Barley was on Toy and they were in San Diego, driving up to Sacramento and San Francisco. He was saying to the team, “We’ve got to skate with my friend, Brian. He left Connecticut. He’s in Sacramento and he rips.”

So we went skating around San Francisco. That was when I bonded with Chad Muska. He hurt his ankle really bad on that Cardiel ledge and I went and bought him a lighter because all he wanted to do was get stoned. He was sitting in the van so bummed out. We bonded over some hip-hop, I’m sure. I think I skated with Ed [Templeton], Jamie [Thomas], Satva [Leung], everybody. I can’t remember if Panama Dan was there … [Mike] Maldonado. Let me apologize if I forget to bring someone up. So I skated with them for like two days in a row, they gave me a couple crusty, used boards out of the back of the van, and then I took the Greyhound back to Sacramento. They were like, “That was fun. Keep in touch, man.”

That was when I talked to Mike Rafter and said, “Let’s go to San Francisco. I’m going to front blunt Hubba Hideout.” I’d just been front blunting a little ledge at this school, and I would land it so often, just cruising, so I just said, “Fuck it. I’m going to go to Hubba and do this.”

I went with Rafter, Bryce Kanights met us, and I landed it. So I got a few other clips and the frontside bluntslide at Hubba and we gave it all to Toy for them to watch. Like, “Here here’s my sponsor-me tape.” I probably sent it directly to Ed. And this is not a diss on Jamie Thomas at all, because he’s a good friend of mine, but everybody knows this story: he was skeptical because I was a little sketchy and Toy Machine was a big deal. Jamie was just being careful, you know, it’s a really, really awesome team. But they told me, “We’re going to fly you down to San Diego, you’re going to stay here for like a month or two and skate, and we’ll see what happens.”

The front blunt that launched a thousand ships. Photo: Bryce Kanights

I don’t think I’d ever been on an airplane. I get on the plane in Sacramento, fly to San Diego, and I remember tripping, like “Whoa, this is really weird.” My whole brain was moving during takeoff. So I get there and Jamie picks me up at the airport with Elissa. And he says, “Hey, this is this girl we’re sponsoring.” And I said, “Hey, nice to meet you. I’m Brian.” And that’s where that started, which was amazing. We were kids—probably eighteen or nineteen, something like that. So then, all that stuff went down. The video [Welcome To Hell] was put out to the world, you know. I can’t remember if we premiered it, but I know we went and watched it at Jamie’s house or something.

Anyway, moving forward, I was invited on tour. It was really easy for me to get used to doing demos because everybody was staring at Ed and Jamie and Donny and I would just skate around the perimeter. I’d warm up and then bust some tricks, and do pretty damn good demos with those guys.

Because I was already in the video, I was considered “on the team,” but they gave me this talking to: “This is great, man. Thank you.” Then I remember before the Vancouver contest they’re like, “We want to turn you pro. How do you feel about that?” But I was going, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I don’t know, man. What about Maldonado? He’s not pro yet. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. I just got on the team.”

And I remember Maldonado telling me, “Yo, it is all good, dude. You deserve this. Don’t even trip, man.”

So everybody was being really cool and saying I deserved it. It was like, here we go, let’s do this. That was a trip. So I went up to the Vancouver contest and I was like, “Skateboard run? That’s so stupid. A good routine? That’s what ice skaters do … I’m not going to try and plan a run. I’m just going to do tricks.” Well, that didn’t work out so good. (laughs)

I dropped in. I bailed my first trick or two. And then I’m just out there. I couldn’t even hear what song was playing. I couldn’t hear anything. My whole brain went numb. And I was like, “This is insane. Why did I turn pro?” I’m watching fricking Ronnie Creager killing it. And Sean Sheffey is there … all these idols of mine. I am not one of these guys. I’m not worthy. I really felt like, “What did I just agree to?”

Room service is the most agreeable meal of the day. Photo: Jon Humphries

That’s heavy.

It was. I remember Ed saying, “Dude, it’s all good. Don’t trip … don’t trip. You’re just new to this.” So when we went to Tampa Pro, Ed totally helped me with runs. He said, “All right, here’s what you do, Brian. Find a few tricks that you like scattered around the course, and try to draw them all together into a line.” And I developed a rhythm during practice. If I bailed something in my run, I would try another piece of my run. I wouldn’t try to do the perfect run every time. And then as it got closer to my heat, that’s when I’d be like, now I’m going to try the whole line.

I figured it out and then we went to Dortmund, Germany, and I pieced together a line. I dropped in and I landed the whole entire line and didn’t bail once. I was like, “Damn, that was crazy. I might get top ten.” I was out in the parking lot with Chris Senn having a smoke or beers or something, they’re about to announce the results, and he says, “You know you won.” I said, “Yeah, right.” Because Arto was killing it. And McCrank and Matt Beach were shredding.

We go inside and they announce. “Third place, Andrew Reynolds.” I can’t remember what order it was … Rick McCrank, second place. I’m like, “Holy shit, I fucking won.” That was insane. That’s what happened right after I turned pro … and then it was like, wow, here we go.

That’s a whirlwind.

Yeah. I remember being at the dinner afterward, and Mike Carroll was at this table with all the Girl guys, like, “Hey, man. Cheers. Send that guy a drink.” That was a trip.

Backside noseblunt in Girl’s backyard. Photo: Ben Colen

That’s a good segue to you getting on Girl Skateboards. We don’t need to talk about the breakup with Toy Machine, do we?

I don’t mind, because I handled it the best I could, but the breakup was really hard.

Here’s what happened: Rick [Howard] said something. We just talked about Fourstar. And then later he called me, “Hey, man. I heard you like our badminton gear,” or something like that. It was funny, of course. He says, “I’m going to send you some stuff.” So he starts sending me clothes and then they put me on. So it’s already in the Girl building, being on Fourstar, I was already hanging out with all those guys. And then, it might have been a blessing in disguise, but Bam and Mike left Toy. Maybe even Elissa left Toy. And Donny left, Chris Senn left. I can’t remember if Mike Frazier got let go or kicked off or what the fuck.

At one point it was Ed, Austin Stevens, and myself. And I was like, “Shit, dude. I don’t want to abandon you, but I’ve still got some good years. If I’m going to be a pro on a team, I want to be with all these other guys.” I felt like I had to be the one who shined so hard, but I kind of wanted to blend in with all these other rad teammates: Rick McCrank, Eric Koston, Jeron [Wilson] … it was such a wide variety of people on Girl.

So I called Rick and he says, “Wow. I just don’t want to bum Ed out.” I said, “I’ll handle that. I love Ed. It’s going to hurt, but I’ll handle it.” Here’s another funny aspect of the story: I was up in Portland and Brad [Staba] called me: “Dude, I’ve got to talk to you. Don’t say anything. I’ve been talking to Marc Johnson a lot. I think I’m going to ride for enjoi.” I was like, “What, dude? That’s crazy, because I’ve been talking to Rick Howard. I think I’m going to ride for Girl.” And he said, “Oh, my God, that’s great, Brian. That’s great.”

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I went to the Portland airport to fly back to Providence or Boston, to go chill in Connecticut. And Rick had said, “Yes, you can ride for Girl.” I said “Well, I’m going to call Ed.” I get to the airport, I’m at check-in, but Ed calls me. He’s like, “Brian, what’s up? What’s going on? I’m just hearing some stuff.” I told him, “Listen, I’m at the airport. I’m a little freaked out. I’m going to get on this plane and I’ll call you when I get to Connecticut.” And he said, “Okay. Okay.” And he might even have been crying. I can’t remember. Because it was freaking me out. I loved Ed so much and he did so much for me in my career.

So I land. I kept my phone off, drove to this bar in the mall by the house where I grew up, threw back a couple Heinekens, and I was just like, here we go. I called him. And he says, “You know what, I was freaking out; I was crying. But I’ve already swallowed that pill. I talked to Geoff Rowley. I talked to Jamie Thomas. They calmed me down.”

I said, “Thank you, Ed. I’m so sorry. I just want to be part of this bigger team. Not to abandon you, but I have this blossoming career and I want to be with these guys. It’s like being with the L.A. Lakers or the Chicago Bulls, to get on Girl.”

Some people said that it was really cool of Girl, because I got some tattoos and shaved head. I’m what people would call a, quote, “gnarly skater.” Everything else at Girl was a lot more clean-cut. I hate to use this word, but people looked at them more like they were this jock team. It was really cool and smart of them to put someone like me on the team—someone who is a contrast … I’m showing up with a Clash t-shirt on, jeans, and I’m just mad different, you know what I mean?

Textbook “gnarly skater.” BA back lips the great, urban barrier reef. Photo: Ben Colen

What year was that?

I am the worst at remembering those years. Let me think. Like 2001? That sounds about right. So yeah, I’m on Fourstar, I’m on Girl, and however many years go by. I can’t remember when I actually quit and started 3D. But it was probably three years ago.

So this is how it went down. I was in New York and I was just like, “I can’t quit over a phone or an email. No way.” Girl was awesome to me. So I flew there and I was about to throw up the whole time, because I was scared. It was the worst, man. The worst feeling in the world. I’m walking around with a Girl tattoo on my chest. I’ve got a Girl/Antihero tattoo under my arm. I have a Chocolate tattoo. I was down for them. But I had kind of been talking about it. I said, “Brad, let’s start a company.” And he goes, “Great. Yeah. All right. Now you gotta go quit Girl.”

I don’t know if I even told them what I was going to do when I quit, because I didn’t want them to be like, “What the fuck? Brad’s stealing you?” I wasn’t hiding anything from them; I just didn’t want them to be mad at Brad. I had a feeling that as time went by, some of those initial wounds would heal. And they have. Me and Mike Carroll are great friends now. But I said, “Hey, I’ve got to talk to you guys. It’s kind of serious, all right?” And they’re like, “Yeah, let’s go to our house.”

So I’m at Rick and Megan [Baltimore]’s and I’m looking at the paintings. Like, “Oh, this is cool. Yeah.” And we’re waiting for Mike. So he shows up and he says, “What’s up, dude? Are you okay?” He thought maybe I was on heroin or something. I was told him, “No, it’s nothing like that. I want to leave Girl.” I just saw Megan start to pace a little bit, like she pivoted and turned. I was straight up, “You guys are awesome, but I’m 36. I don’t want to just sit on my couch and get these checks from you guys. I want to do this different, creative thing. I’m so sorry, but I want to have my own company.”

It was good. I cried a little and hugged them and stuff. Of course I felt relief. I hung out with them for another half-hour or twenty minutes, and then I was like, “Well, I have to go to the airport.”

It was crazy. I got in my rental car and I was driving back to LAX thinking, “Holy fuck. I just quit Girl. I can’t believe that just happened.” I was scared as hell to do it.

It got a little tricky for Mike and I. He said, “You’re not going to take anybody, are you?” I’m like, “No, dude, that’s not what this is about. I swear.” He said, “And you’re going to stay on Fourstar?” And I said yes. But when Alex heard about 3D, we started talking about it. Of course Mike was upset and had to tell him, “Alex told me that he was going to quit Girl and ride for nobody.” And Mike was bugging out. And said, “I’m not stealing him. I’m sorry. He’s my friend. What am I going to do, not put him on my company?”

I think he was like, “Is there anybody else that I need to know about?” I said, “No, dude. Just Alex, I swear to you, Mike. I’m sorry.” He was really hurt, you know, and I get it. It sucked. I was walking around wanting to throw up all the time, once again. Just walking my dog around my block and there’s beeping trucks and Mike’s freaking out on me.

Multi-dimensional Madonna. Photo: Jon Humphries

Let’s talk about the beginning of 3D. How was starting your own brand different than just going pro for someone else’s?

I mean, we got Austin [Gillette] because we knew he was going to leave Habitat, Alex Olson, and myself. So we made all the first board graphics and I forwarded a file of the catalog to Alex. The main thing that he was bummed on—why he quit—was that 3D and Skate Mental were using the same artist. I’m very thankful for everything that Loren did for us, but Skate Mental and 3D had different content. 3D was trying to be a little more artsy. I wanted bold, colorful graphics—simple stuff for Alex and Austin.

I think what happened was when Brad put everything in the catalog, he used the same font that Skate Mental would use for the whole scroll-down or whatever. It made it look like the two things were the same. It made it look like Skate Mental and 3D were together.

Alex told me, “Dude, I don’t want this shit to look like Skate Mental. I’m not feeling it. I’m sorry, Brian.” We met on a set of stairs in New York, on Houston Street, and he said, “I can’t do it. I showed some of my friends and they said it kind of looks like Skate Mental.” I said, “Well, I don’t think it does.” And he goes, “I know, but I don’t want to commit to this and be bummed. I don’t want to do it. I’m really sorry.”

I said, “You’re my friend. And I want to be friends with you for the rest of our lives. So if you’re not feeling something, I don’t want you to do it. Why would I want you to walk around with your skateboard and not like your own graphic? That would suck.”

So he says, “Thank you, Brian. I don’t want to waste your time and I don’t want to waste your money. I’m so sorry.”

Friendly frontside flip. Photo: Ben Colen

So within a couple months, you had to deal with quitting the team you’d been on, and then someone quitting the team you started.

Yeah, it sucked. And then the whole thing that happened with 3D was I was flying out there every five or six weeks with my dog under my arm, constantly on the phone correcting board graphics from New York with Brad. And he started to get irritated, like, “Dude, you guys should move out here.”

But he knew when we started the company that I was going to stay living in New York, and that I still needed to skate. It was really tough every season to make a whole new batch of board graphics, try to skate, make sure Austin was stoked, take care of my dog, and be in a relationship. I was getting so burnt; I was so sick of going to airport. I had already been flying my whole career for tours. I said yes to every tour. Toy Machine tour, yes, definitely. I’ll go. Girl tour, yeah. Fourstar tour. Every contest, every demo, lots of trade shows, premiers, art shows. I was sick of it. I wanted to do something for me. So I went to SF with the intent of telling Brad that I was over it. And I was sober, because it was so heavy. I’m not going to be throwing back beers with Brad and get all emotional.

So he’s like, “So do you have any ideas? What are you doing? How are you feeling? Do you want to continue to do this?”

And I told him, “No, I actually don’t even want to do it anymore. I want to just pull the plug.” And Brad says, “All right. How are we going to handle this on social media? We don’t want to say we failed, because we didn’t.” And then he joked with me, “Well, you know you can always ride for Skate Mental.” And I said, “You know what, I’d rather just be your friend.” (laughs) We’d already been through so much stuff doing 3D that was painful.

There are so many little companies right now, and who know what will happen with them. But I thought about it and the only team I really love is Antihero. I already ride their boards. I didn’t even care if Antihero put me on their team. I was just going to ride their stuff. Jon Alden already gave me boards with my Spitfire box, and Jim [Thiebaud] always said, “Dude, anything you ever want, you know we got you.”

So I was riding the boards. I was with Andrew in New Jersey, eating a sub sandwich. My phone rings and it’s John Cardiel. I was like, “Oh, my God. I have to get this.” So I run out of the sub shop and I’m sitting on the curb. John’s says, “What’s up, Brian? How are you?” And I’m like, “I’m good, man. How are you?” He says, “I’m good, dude. How are you feeling? Like are you going to jump down a big four or are you skating?” I’m like, “Yeah. I’m skating, man. I just want to skate for a long time. I’m getting ready to go to Tampa this year. I’ve got a lot of good stuff going on with Nike. I just designed a hockey jersey and a whole capsule. I’m good, man.”

And he says, “All right, well, our team’s really big. We’ve got to figure this out. We just turned Robbie [Russo] pro and all this stuff’s going on.” I said, “Hey, I get it. I want to ride Antihero boards. I don’t care if I get on, but if I do, you can give me one board a season for all I care.”

So he said, “Listen, man, let me think about all this.”

Up against the wall, motherfucker. Boneless wallride. Photo: Ben Colen

So I was just waiting around and totally content, because I always rode their stuff anyway. And I didn’t want to over-logo. I wore Nike shirts, basically, to Tampa, but I was riding an Antihero board, you know.

I don’t know when it was, maybe June or July. I was on the phone with Marc Johnson talking about the industry and all this stuff. And he was telling me what was going on with his life. And as we’re talking my phone rings and I’m like, “Oh, my God, Marc. it’s Julien.” He said, “Whoa, dude. Get that.”

So I answered it. I forget his exact words, but you know, Julien goes, “So let’s do this, man. We got some stuff coming up. We’re going to turn Daan pro, but me, John, and Frank have been talking about it. Let’s do it.” I was like, “Really? Great, awesome, wow. Thanks!” And when I was with those guys—when they came to New York recently—that’s when Julien took me aside and we talked together about the board graphics that I’d like to have.

So now they’re sending me shapes. I’ve been really into square-tail boards recently—they’re good for bluntslides and tail blocks, and I have big feet, so … I’ll probably be riding that shape most of the time.

It’s like a collision. It’s so Antihero. It seems like they’d be the best company to line up with for your coming out. Their whole approach is already challenging, thought provoking, and kind of makes people question themselves and how they see things.

Totally. I’m sure to some extent, it’s probably a little trippy for Julien. Of course he’s like, “Dude, what you’re doing is awesome. Let’s blow this world up, man. Let’s fuck people’s heads up.” But it’s crazy. I’m riding for Antihero, and then at the very end of the Vice documentary, Guy Mariano says, “He’s already our hero. You can’t take that cape off him.” So it’s ironic that I’m actually on Antihero and everybody is calling me this hero.

But I think it’s hero in a different way. I’m not trying to be some hero, it’s more like I’m trying to help people smash their preconceived ideas and beliefs. It’s like Jake Phelps says in the piece: “There’s gay cops; there’s gay firemen; there’s gay doctors. Fuck, get used to it.” Or he goes, “Get with it.” That’s going to open some people’s eyes. He’s totally right.

The other thing I always say is that half the clothes these straight, homophobic people are wearing were designed by gay people. There are gay people in everything. I’m glad to try and help change the mentality a little bit.

Portrait of the artist as an out man. Photo: Jon Humphries

What did skateboarding do for you that you’d like other people to do for their friends who are worried or scared or to talk about their relationships, their preferences, or their sexuality?

Just try to be open minded and understand that there are all kinds of people: Their mothers all gave birth to them and they all come out differently. Some people are dark skinned, some people have red hair, some people are born crazy. There all kinds of humans in this world and we don’t know what, exactly, happens inside the womb. Just try to understand that they didn’t choose to be gay and being in the closet is really hard to endure. It’s like, “What is wrong with me?”

And I mean … Jake still says faggot all the time. It’s part of his vocabulary, you know. I wish he wouldn’t, but I don’t expect the guy to change. It’s a really horrible word. I think a lot of older gay people really think nobody should ever say it. I don’t think it’s okay to say that word, but you know, I feel like I understand it, because some kids just don’t know how hurtful it really is. So many kids in their school, in their class, and when they’re at the skatepark say it. It’s a term kids all use, but they didn’t grow up in the times of the 60s and 70s when being gay was illegal and when gay bars were being raided. They didn’t live through the 80s and the AIDS epidemic—some people were losing a friend a week. Just think about what you’re really saying. You never know: You might say the word faggot walking down the street one day and some big old lesbian’s going to hear you, turn around, and punch you right in the face. So … be careful.

I just want to thank everyone at Vice, all my friends who said such kind words in the Vice documentary, and most of all Giovanni Reda and Roger Bagley for all their hard work.


  • Drewsdays says:

    What a dope interview. Thanks for making this happen Kevin and thank you Brian for sharing!
    Keep killing it ya’ll.

  • Joel says:

    So good! Thank you skateboarding.

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