INTERVIEW // Chad Muska
December 10th // Interviewer: Shane Allen // Skate
f you don't know him by The Muska, Chad is one of the most widely celebrated skateboarders of all time, a real enigma.
Known not only for going bigger than most on a skateboard, but making a bigger impact on popular culture as well. Maska started Shorty's skateboards, Jay-Z has worn Muska's Skytop shoes, he's spent plenty of time partying in Hollywood with Paris Hilton and he was probably the most popular character in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.
From his skating, style, designing, music, art, there's not much the Muska cant do. He exceeds at anything he does and he's not afraid to do it. There's no limits that you can put on a creative mind. In this interview we see what Muska's been up to during quarantine, re-started up Shorty's and getting inducted into the Skateboard Hall of Fame.
Muska, what up man.
So how has this year been for you?
This year has been a pretty interesting little ride. Much like the rest of the world, in their own way in some shape or form I’ve been going through I guess what everybody else is going through with the world and kind of figuring out what the heck is going on.
Three months ago, I started doing some home renovation stuff. I started building this concrete retaining wall at my house. As everybody was kind of focused on all this chaos and everything was happening around the world, I felt that I just honed in and started building this wall that I wanted to build. It's kind of connected to my artwork, concrete and different things, It just became this project that I just super focused in on and throughout the building process of it,
I was kind of thinking of a bigger picture of what am I going to do right now, so I started setting up a home studio, more of a home office set up within my house. And that led to me building my own direct to consumer platform, reconnecting with the brand Shorty’s that I helped launch in the 90's. It led to this whole explosion of business focus in a weird way.
The boards you just re-released got a lot of love for sure. People were genuinely stoked.
Yeah, that was crazy, it's still kind of an ongoing thing because we're not able to keep up with the demands right now. And in general there's a shortage in production for many things in the world right now. Everybody's having trouble keeping up with the global demand as the popularity of skateboarding has grown. There were some effects on the manufacturing plants, themselves, the COVID restrictions and having to re-design and configure the factories. It was funny that like, people are almost upset now we were trying to do something good,
We didn't want it to become like that, you know, but it's so cool to see that something the company did coming back, All the team riders, everybody that was a part of Shorty’s that made it what it was, It's cool to see that it meant so much to so many people around the world. To still feel that love to this day, I feel like I'm just getting a pro model for the first time. I'm so grateful.
So goin back in time, how’d you get into skating and graffiti?
It's so weird when you become old and something's been in your life for so long. It's almost hard to remember how you became what you are. But I just remember my earliest memories of graffiti. I lived on the east coast and I remember riding the school bus on the freeways and seeing graffiti off the freeway, just staring at it and say, “Whoa” All the colors and the characters just really interested me. Skateboarding was introduced to me at a similar time where my dad had sent me a skateboard, it was just like a generic one, and that was my first interaction with it.
What about it was so compelling?
"Skateboarding offered a challenge to me in my life, both mental and physical. Things were rough in my life at that time, things weren't always perfect in my home. It was an escape, a challenge that I could tune in and feel good about something that I did. It wasn't dependent upon anybody else."
Also the culture of skateboarding and the people, seeing skate jams with all this music, the way that skaters dressed, seeing punk rock bands perform, or hip hop DJs and graffiti. All these things that were involved with skateboarding and the culture surrounding it, It was the coolest thing in the world to me, I'd never seen anything else like it.
Given that your life wasn't the most comfortable, things were constantly changing in your life. Did you look to skating as a form of stability?
I think my skateboard is the one thing that never left me, the thing that I always had there. So it was definitely a source of stability. But I think more than anything it was a way to escape. Just to have something that gives you freedom. That moment once you're on that skateboard and you're rolling down the street, or you're focusing on a trick, everything else stops there, the rest of the world ceases to exist when you're in that zone of skateboarding.
That was always something that was really special to me about it. I like to envision things, imagine and dream up different ideas and skateboarding was one of those things where I felt like I was dreaming and imagining something, but it was actually happening in physical reality landing and learning these tricks, bending gravity kind of.
I think you can experience that feeling with anything but I found that unique experience through skateboarding. It’s like a form of martial arts or dance or expression, all those things in one.
I kind of look at skateboarding the same way. like a form of dance or a performance, It's how you move and use your body to make something look beautiful.
It sort of is performance art when you; look at it. Someone can do a kickflip and you don’t pay it any mind because you’ve seen it before. But every once in a while, one person will do a kickflip. And you go, “Oh my gosh, look at that, it's a work of art”
The same thing with dancing, a person can dance in a particular way and it looks cool. And then you see somebody else do it and it moves you, In that sense, it has to be, Certain art moves people in different ways, that's what skateboarding does too.
I like that idea that skating was an outlet to be able to make your imagination come to life. Sort of like what Marc Johnson said in Modus Operandi, something along the lines of “I know If I can think of it, and put enough time and energy into, I can make it happen”
That’s almost like a philosophical theory for reality. It's not just skateboarding, you can power anything into existence. But I totally agree with that. I love Mark too. I love how his brain thinks and how he breaks stuff down. I had a couple of fun and out-there conversations with him a couple of years ago. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
You’re big on manifestation and willing things into existence.
I would say yes, I don't follow any particular practice and I'm not like this is how it is. But if I analyze my life and say, “How do I go about things and how do I do this?” It mostly comes down to manifesting and dreaming up these ideas, believing them so hard to the point where they become reality. Skateboarding, anything. The older I get, the more I believe it. You create your own reality.
There are some limitations,
"But when we can't control everything that happens to us, we can always control our reactions and we can control our continued mindset of how we just go about it. "
Whenever I'm allowing all these little things to build up or if something in my life is allowing me to think negatively, it spreads to other parts of my life. And anytime I can recognize these patterns and see what I'm doing, I can stop it and go, I'm going positive and I'm thinking good thoughts. surround myself with positivity. I get into that mindset, put that energy in the world and it, and it always comes back full circle in a positive way.
I was saying this to @8ballr, the homie. I said something positive other day. And he was like “Easier said than done” That's very true. It is so easy to say, “Oh, I'm just going to think positive thoughts and my life's going to be perfect and right” It's hard work. But I said to him, “If it was that easy, then it wouldn't be that great..”
You think that has to do with why you ran away to California as a kid?
Yeah absolutely. I didn't really remember when I was younger, but my mom told me and I had made a make believe skateboard company, I picked kids from the neighborhood and to be on the team. I would tell her, I'm going to go to Santa Monica for whatever reason, I would say I was coming to Santa Monica, California to be a pro skater and start this company. That was in the 6th grade, it all comes back to the power of manifestation.
I don't know if it's destiny or if it's manifestation. I’m not sure. It's strange how these things in life play themselves out. I think it's crucial to have those thoughts and think about it. The power of acceptance is beautiful too. Just to being able to go, okay, "It is what it is". I'm just going to keep going with it and enjoy this ride that we're on in this life. Who knows what's going to be next.
What would you tell a teenager about to pack their bags and runaway to the place they want to live.
Buy more real estate and hold on to all of it. (laughs) That's it.
Realize that everything else you did perfectly. Even the most embarrassing moments... you did a great job.
In your art, there is a certain calmness. Do you think the art you make today is contrasting the craziness of your life in the past.
I think that my art has been a long journey over the last like 12 years or so. I've always done some sort of artistic expression, but then when I started to try to really make “fine art” or whatever you want to call it. It’s was a journey of self discovery in calming my inner self. And so the art is a reflection of that journey of me trying to find my true self and not this public persona image that kind of took over and became something maybe that I wasn't fully myself.
Do you think you were becoming the character you were portraying?
I partied hard. I was wild. I was this crazy kid that came from nothing and made all this stuff. But behind that there was a mind still, and there was a voice which I think was lost in this image, this idea of whatever I had become at that time. And so my art was really a long journey.
What was the importance in finding the materials you use?
Working in concrete and working in steel and stone, and these really stubborn, hard materials that had not been only been a part of my life. Skateboarding from the concrete, but then transferring into my current mind state of connecting with nature and the world and the bigger picture of reality.
I was trying to find ways to express that. There's no way for me to express that in one picture that represents one thing or a word that says one statement. Minimalism to me is the only way that I... maybe it's some conceptualism, some minimalism. Some labels are weird to me because I just do what I, and make the things that I want to make.
There is a lack of suggestion within the work. So maybe that's where the minimalist would come or conceptualist work could come. I think that there's beauty in there because then it's timeless, it opens up longer to me. it's more of a universal statement.
They are calming to me, they're soothing, as hard, as rough and destructive as concrete there's a sense of calmness to me. I can hear what it's like to touch and to feel the concrete. It's a very porous material, it absorbs energy. Concrete itself brings a different feeling to a room.. The heavier the mass within the room, the more it affects the energy of the space. And I think all those objects that I work with, how did the ability to do that in a unique way compared to maybe just layers of paint.
Do you think in that process was more of a reflection and observation on your life, or a search for something that you have yet to discover?
I think it's more of growing, just trying to learn more each day and try to become a little bit better than the day before. I've never dwelled in the past. I'm not one of those people that does. I live in the moment and sometimes a little bit in the future, but I try to live in the moment, I keep moving.
I love the past, I think that's important too, to respect the past. But I'll never let my past define me. It builds up the piece of who I’ve become today, but it doesn't have to define who I can become tomorrow.
Would you say in expressing this calmness, that less is more?
Well, I mean, it depends on how you look at “less”, you know what I mean? What is less? Is less how many strokes that go into each brush on a painting, compared to how many strokes go into smoothing out the concrete perfectly and polishing it and sanding it and marrying it? The visual representation of the image is less.
It's even hard to talk about art and what it is. Because I just want to do it. I just want to make things and enjoy the process of making them, displaying and seeing the conversations that they bring up. For me, I don't think I owe an explanation of anything or why I do it, or what it means or anything. It is art, it doesn't always have to have that. Sometimes it's just a process of building and doing that action that you enjoy doing over and over again, and you get different results and display different things.
Letting it live and speak for itself.
And then maybe, critics can write about it, how do they break it down? Do some psycho analysis of how nice my thought process was going into it, Because I don't really know, I'm curious myself, I'm still trying to figure out.
How important is observation to you?
Well, I think it's different for each thing depending on the process. When you're working with cutting stone or laying concrete, unless you're just going wild with it, you want to control your results with these types of mediums, you have to analyze and watch every step you take and figure out how to achieve it. I learn by doing, so I'm constantly observing and analyzing, experimenting each time I do something, I try something a little bit different. I like to do things in repetition with slight change to the repetition as I go,
Switching to a different subject, you recently got inducted into the “Skateboarding Hall of Fame” a few months ago. You did something really interesting and you passed your nomination on Kareem Campbell. Could you talk about your motivations to do so?
As far as the particular times that we were living in there was a lot of social unrest and a lot of things happening that I was trying to digest. I didn't want to make it about me as much. It was a statement that I felt that needed to be said at that time. And I said it, but I kind of held back.
I think that skateboarding, to me, is such a ethnically, culturally, globally diverse culture, a lifestyle sport where I don't even know what to call it. Now, it's its own thing. And if they're going to be institutions that represent skateboarding, then they should represent it in the right way. I don't really care if there's a skateboarding hall of fame, it doesn't matter to me. I don't care if I'm inducted to it, I take it with great honor and I don't disrespect the organization in any way. It is there and I think if it does exist, it needs to properly represent street skateboarding, especially because that's what I represent to the masses in a right way.
Street skateboarding was the seed that pushed modern street culture in my opinion. Now we're seeing streetwear, music and general pop-culture, I really think it came from street skateboarding in the early nineties, developed these brands.
So for me, when I first came to California and I saw Kareem Campbell and he was rocking with Menace, City Stars and Axion. He was doing things that I had dreamed of doing. I feel I'm not a big political person, I don't speak on politics much. And I don't even like to say that I don't like to speak about politics. I like to promote and do the things I love in life, and politics just don't happen to be one of them.
So my statement was in the hopes that they would induct him and that it would bring more awareness to street skateboarding and street culture. What somebody like Kareem Campbell did to open up the doors for not just black skateboarders around the whole world, but all-multi ethnical groups of skateboarders everywhere. He brought it in and opened up the door in such a unique way through Menace and through City Stars and with Axion that it was just a no-brainer to me.
I didn't call him and say, Hey, what do you think about this? What am I going to do? That idea came to life and I just did it. I texted him after I did it. I said, you might see something and it is what it is. So I'm still yet to know what the result is. And I honestly didn't like the way that the Skateboarding Hall of Fame handled it personally. And some of the things that they said to me.
I'm very cautious when I see social media things happening and a lot of people jump on these thing and they represent this idea. The idea usually sounds great, the underlying statement is usually a positive, great thing. But I start to question what some of the motives are behind them.
I was presented with a unique opportunity. I was getting inducted this year and I stopped and looked and it just hit me. I said, Hey, what's going on here? Street skateboarding and skateboarding is not being represented properly in this institution, in my opinion.
But I also don't want to attack this institution. And I don't want to cancel out the Skateboarding Hall of Fame. I think it's great. I don't care if I get it or not. It doesn't matter whether these things exist or not, but if they do, let's celebrate them in the right way and let's not attack it just because they didn't do it a hundred percent the first time, you know?
I don't consider myself an activist necessarily, but I saw an opportunity where I had a chance to voice something I felt needed to be said, and I did it.
It just felt right. I always follow my instinct when my heart tells me to do something. And that's what it told me to do.