Punk Rock, Travel and Skateboarding: A Ryan Maddox Interview
Punk Rock, Travel and Skateboarding: A Ryan Maddox Interview by Joe Hammeke.
Ryan Maddox makes it happen. Instead of waiting for it he is out there seizing opportunities and creating new ones for himself. A skateboarder and punk rocker since the early 80′s he is well versed in the culture of the underground. Touring on pocket change. All he needs is some gas money, a tent, his dog prince and a destination in mind. Most of the time Diego Alvarado from Crook’s Skate Shop is rolling along beside him and the two work great as a team. Ryan recently made a full length skate video called Wide Open Eyes. Diego had a stellar part in that video. Here is a short interview with Ryan about skateboarding, punk rock, making a skate video and working with Diego. Read it and watch Diego’s part from “Wide Open Eyes” at the bottom of this interview.
When did you first pick up a skateboard?
My earliest memory of skating was when I was 2 or 3 years old. My brother was 7 and we were taking turns on a little sidewalk surfer in the tennis court of the La Mancha apartments in Huntsville, Alabama. This was back in 1980/81 somewhere. We moved into a new house on the south side when I was 4 and I took my Nash with the saw blade grip tape everywhere. By the time the Bones Brigade exploded, and the SANTA CRUZ and PSYCHO SKATES videos were in circulation, I was hooked and calling myself a skateboarder. My town didn’t have a huge skate scene. I followed my older brother and his friends everywhere, I didn’t have too many friends to skate with that were my age. When I got into 5th grade I met a girl named Aimee in my class. She was super cute and invited me to hang out, only problem was it was at the skating rink. I couldn’t roller-skate for sh*t, but I said yeah anyway. So after school, I got my friend Adam to teach me how to roller-skate in trade for skateboarding lessons. Pretty funny when I think back….two 11 year old kids trading lessons so I can impress some girl, but it worked. By the end of the day I was figuring out how to skate backwards in my kitchen around the table, and when it came time to meet her at the rink, I didn’t make a total ass of myself. I ended up loving the style of roller skating too, and there were more girls at this spot to talk to haha. I eventually started working at that skating rink and spent 20 years as a manager. I still have the keys and alarm code, and that’s how I eat and travel when I’m staying in the south for extended periods filming skateboarding
Did that lead to you being in Punk Bands and touring the country?
I didn’t start playing in punk bands until I was 17. I’ve always been weird, different, sometimes on purpose. The creative kid no one understands. So naturally I fit in with the punks. After playing in Huntsville bands for a few years, I kept meeting these wild, wonderful, and super friendly DIY punks from Chattanooga. The kind of folks who hug and kiss you after not seeing you for 2 hours. I moved to Chattanooga and started playing in bands, sometimes 5 at a time, touring across the country.
I learned a lot of lessons living in a van with 5 wild asses.
Where all over the country have you traveled?
I think I’ve literally been to every state, except maybe Maine or something. On one tour with my old band QUEERWULF, we met up with our friends THE FLESHIES and played some shows in Tucson during a US tour. They were super rad, and took us 60 miles south to Nogales, MX. It’s probably the only strip club story I can tell. But it’s not what you think haha. That was a good time, but there have been a million more in a million other places, whether it’s a band tour or skate tour.
What are the similarities of punk music, traveling and skateboarding?
Pretty similar. I just love the life. Traveling, no expectations, and having to find the positive in every situation. On tour you have to hook everything up yourself. If you don’t have something you need, you have to talk to people and hustle it. You end up interacting with the public, the good public. The kind that restore your faith in humanity. That’s living to me. The most obvious similarity is living in a van with a bunch of society’s rejects. But those are the people I’d rather travel with. Skateboarders are almost always outcasts, and they live a different lifestyle than most. They do what they do because they love it, just like the punks. They don’t need to eat at 3 restaurants a day, and carry 4 bags to travel. They don’t always care how clean their clothes are or where they’re gonna sleep that night, a hotel is almost always an unexpected bonus. (Showers!) The most important thing is doing what you love. Expressing yourself on a board, or behind a mic or amplifier. It’s all the same. Its style, art, and expression. I only wish there were more political skate companies sometimes. I guess they’re there if you look for them. It seems like it’s only about keeping skateboarding ‘skater-owned’ though. I wanna see more gay and lesbian skate companies. A lot of times the same people who scream “F@$# corporate skateboarding” are the same fools who turn around and tell you not to bring your girl to the spot, or make fun of girl skaters.
What got you into filming skateboarding? You have an interesting story about how you got your gear. Are you self-taught? And how long have you been filming/photographing skating?
I got back into skateboarding in 2007, after a 16 year break to work in the roller-skating business and play in punk bands. I had a Border Collie puppy growing fast and wanted to run her energy out, so I borrowed a co-workers skateboard so she could tow me. By the end of the day, I was in the ditch trying front side ollies and doing stalls on the curb. I got hooked all over again. I started skating with whoever was nice. It had seemed that in 16 years, the style had changed and it was now cool to be a dick to people. That’s not how it used to be, but I was determined to do what I loved anyway. I found a 5.5 megapixel digital camera in the skating rink lost and found and started shooting my friend Joseph Bilodeau with that. Fast forward 5 years later and I got a message from an old rink rat named Kelly. She was asking me about my life and what I was up to, and I told her of my dream to become a professional photographer. She replied with “Well how much do you need?” and I was confused with the question at first. Turns out that she had come into a lot of money, like, A LOT of money and wanted to give back. She had a rough life and a wild family so we would let her in free to the rink sometimes or give her a ride home. I think she appreciated that, and she spent 3 days talking me into an investment for a camera and computer so I could start learning to shoot and edit HD footage. She didn’t want anything in return. This was April 2012 when I got my first real camera, and I dove in head first making skateboard videos, as well as hustling portraits and weddings. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I still don’t, but figuring it all out is the fun part. I’m self-taught everything pretty much.
How long did you work on filming “Wide Open Eyes?”
Pretty much one year. There was no concept. No ideas for full parts like the previous videos. Just go out and film your friends around the country. I spent a lot of time in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California for this one.
When did you know Diego was going to have the last part?
Diego likes to joke about that skateboard saying “do work” but he is probably the hardest working skater I’ve been involved with, next to Logan Lewis in Chattanooga. Diego made plans and invited me constantly, which makes it easier for me since I don’t have to plan and arrange everything myself. Plus, because he loves people and skating so much, he progresses like crazy and gets tons of footage. After a year of filming almost 50 people, he just had the biggest bulk of footage and I advertised him as the only “full part”. When it came time to edit, I actually made him another part in the middle of the video. He’s got 2 parts in WOE. But who cares? There’s no rules in skateboarding right? Ha ha.
What’s it like working with Diego? Do you push him or does he push you to do better?
Working with Diego is awesome. Definitely some of the gnarliest skating going down from an even more gnarly friend. He ‘friends’ better than he skates. Because I am a lone filmer/photographer, it’s hard to get the shots I want with some people. Because sometimes, I want the long shot, the fisheye, and a photo. That’s 3 makes right there, and Diego is the kind of person who will break himself trying to help you get the shot you want. He has always put a blind trust to my editing and shooting, and has backed me since day one. We push each other by being positive and supportive. He gets hyped on my filming and I get hyped on his skating. It just works really well with us. Pushing each other to go places and take the opportunities that come to us without fear. He’s just a really good person, and I’m lucky that he cares about me.
Does Prince go everywhere with you?
Since I lost my border collie, Dottie, to liver failure last summer, YES…Prince goes everywhere with me. I’m planning on ordering a service dog vest off Amazon soon so he can sit in the restaurants. Health codes are the only thing in the way. Prince is my soul mate. He loves skating as much as I do, and that’s apparent in his happy little bark when he’s running and I’m pushing. Prince just started his film career and his GoPro footage says all!
Do you think bringing a dog like Prince on the road makes it harder or does it open more doors?
I’ve called Prince “The Icebreaker” for years. He is the pacifier. His good body language tells other animals he is not a threat and he has always pacified the aggressive dogs in the street. Now that we skate everyday together, he makes more friends than I do. I can’t tell you how many people at Phoenix AM this year who came up to talk to my dog and didn’t even notice me sitting next to him haha. When we were in Albuquerque for the #headtoZmountains trip, we pulled up at a house in the suburbs. I thought we were gonna walk into a ditch somewhere or something, when I noticed people piling out of the van to stand in the street and take pictures of a lady’s house. “Walter’s house”, someone said with a smile while taking a horizontal shot with their iPhone. I haven’t even really seen Breaking Bad, but the moment ruled. The lady at the house was sketched out by 11 haggard skaters, dirty from the Grand Canyon and camping for a week, when she said “It’s just a house! Move on! It’s just a house”. I made a joke about taking photos of a different house and she didn’t respond, still sketched out. Two seconds later I hear, “Is that a Sheltie???!”. “Yes Ma’am”, I replied, “You wanna meet him?” She was stoked an invited us up to her garage while she feed him treats and talked to me about her role as ”dog treat lady” for the neighbourhood pups. Funny thing is that when the TM came up to chat, she immediately went back to sketch mode and demanded that he back off the property into the street. I was like, ummmm, I’m standing next to you. But it was Prince who hung out at Walters house and had treats, not really me. When I hitch hike, I take Prince these days. Rides come way faster when you have a cute pup who is so well behaved and smart. It’s crazy. (Photo of Ryan and prince at Walter Whites house)
What’s next? Are you working on another video project?
Always! I’ve already banked some footage of Diego and some other El Paso rippers. Plus I’ve made plans to film some people I’ve never shot, like James Coleman, Steven Snyder, and CJ Bartlett. I got my eyes fixed on Frankie Decker and Nick Michel from Las Vegas after watching and meeting them last month. I also wanna get back to Logan Lewis in Chattanooga, as well as Dante Debose in Gainesville, FL. Oh; and the girls! I get so stoked when I skate with ladies, and these days the misogyny is dissipating to a level where girls feel more comfortable skateboarding at the parks and with the boys. I’ve already filmed about 10 ladies this year, and they all rip! I’m hoping to point the lens at some VAGRANT homies soon, as I’ve been working with them doing some editing here and there. The Z-Flex team has become good friends of mine…I’m sure there will be much more to come for next year’s video. What a solid group of people. It has been a blessing to meet the folks I have and to have gotten this far. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in my passion. Let’s go skate!