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For the release of the Silas Baxter Neal adidas Skateboarding Campus ADV we go behind the tricks as he talks about filming, his process and his many video parts.
Let’s dive right into it, can you remember how many video parts you’ve filmed throughout your career, have you even kept count?
Oh, off the top of my head not right away. Probably about ten, not including hometown parts, more proper parts, but it gets fuzzy as there are the online edits and shoe parts... are they a video part or just some online thing? The line gets blurry as to what is a part today, haha. But I’d say about ten, something like that.
Do you have a part you are proudest of?
I like different ones for different reasons, like my Inhabitants part is probably my favourite cause it was all brand new and was my first major video part that I worked really hard for and travelled a lot for the first time. There were a lot of first experiences with that part, salad days. So that part brings back a lot of fun memories, things being new, exciting and different. So all around that was my favourite.
But also the Transworld part (Perpetual Motion) I really liked as I got to film a lot of it in Portland and on my own time. I got to accomplish a lot of goals too, things that I wanted to do locally, which I got done in that video.
Away Days was cool too as I got a real sense of how I wanted the part to be. I guess I'd had experience of video parts so I knew what tricks I both needed and wanted. It was more like constructing something that I’d not really envisioned, as it wasn’t totally clear, but I had a concept of how I wanted it to come out and so I knew how to make it happen y’know. It felt like good work.
"I just like the idea of skating new spots in far-out locations like the quest for the holy grail."
It seems your parts are largely full of either local, new or spots in far-off places? You’ve not been a guy to go to famous NYC or LA spots and make your mark on them?
If there is a perfect handrail somewhere or a perfect something, then yeah... it looks like a lot of fun to go skate there, but I don’t spend a lot of time in LA or San Diego or even New York. And also the idea that you go to these spots and so much stuff has been done there it makes it hard to come up with something. So it’s easier to find something new or skate something that’s not been seen as much and come up with a cool trick there. And I just like the idea of skating new spots in far-out locations like the quest for the holy grail, haha, it’s pretty fun.
I’m sure you’ve also lost count of the number of countries you’ve visited to skate?
Oh yeah, I have! When I went to Russia, you have to tell them all the countries you’ve been to in the last ten years, that was serious work trying to figure it out.
What’s the place you’ve travelled to the most and does that happen to be your favourite?
I go to Japan the most, I don’t think it’s my favourite place to skate but because I have family there I’ve been there a lot for personal reasons, but also to skate. Then since I know it so well and I really like it there I get invited on a lot of trips there.
I think Spain is probably my favourite country to skate, nice vibes, people are relaxed for the most part, endless skate spots, cool countrysides, unique obstacles. So I’d say Spain is the best.
This is probably impossible but can you pull out five tricks that you’re super stoked on and almost act as hallmarks of your career?
Erm, I’ll have to think chronologically for this, haha. I had a Thrasher part a long time ago when I first moved to San Francisco and it was a bunch of sponsor-me-tape footage and some stuff that I’d filmed in SF in the first weeks I'd been there already. I switch heel flipped those Lincoln stairs and that got Brennan’s (Conroy) attention from Habitat, which I think got him interested in hooking me up. So that was a trick that opened up the door for me a little bit, it was an iconic spot and a heavy trick for the time and I was new in town so it shined some light on me.
I did a hippy jump wallride at the Alabama bank in San Francisco, that was a spot near where I was living at the time so I skated that wallride a lot. I didn’t think it was possible when I first started thinking about it and then it was something that I proved to myself that I could do. I saw people really take notice of it, they were like “oh man, I saw you did that trick”, so it seemed to get peoples attention. But for me, the idea of just figuring out how to make it work was really fun.
"I think those two tricks got Burnett stoked, the fact that he came up and I ripped for him, which I think helped out a lot in getting Skater Of The Year."
The frontside flip the hard way to wallride was also crazy on that spot?
Yeah that one too, I did kickflip wallride to fakie first and I was with Ken Goto and he was like “oh man, you should frontside flip into it” and I was like “dude, that’s the wrong way to frontside flip into it!”. Not sure if he didn’t realise that I wasn’t regular footed but I threw a couple out there to tease him and then it ended up working out. Well, about two hours later or something. But that spot was really fun, I lived right by there so I skated it a lot.
Ok, I guess that’s two?
That grind to grind I did in the Transworld video that was also a cover, that really stood out the most to other people. I hear about that one the most and no one had really done it before so it was a cool trick to do, haha.
In Away Days I did a front blunt to noseblunt, like, front blunt on a ledge then turn around to noseblunt slide. I was pretty stoked on that, I tried it a bunch of different times and got really close, did a few crappy ones then I tried it in a line and eventually got it. It was several days of going back for it but when I finally did it, it felt really good, I was stoked on it.
That’s four. Oh, you know what, there’s this big rail that I 50-50’d, it was twenty-something stairs, quite a wide one, we called it the Apple Factory, it was one of the last tricks in Origin. That, and this Smith grind I did in the same video part, through two kinks. I was living in Santa Rosa and (Mike) Burnett from Thrasher came up to shoot and I did those two tricks, like two days in a row. I think those two tricks got Burnett stoked, the fact that he came up and I ripped for him, which I think helped out a lot in getting Skater Of The Year. I remember that feeling good, doing the tricks in general and getting him stoked on them, I think that helped me out a lot.
What is your process when filming a part, just chip away or go ham on filming missions? I guess you’ve done so many parts that it must seem you’re always working on something?
I’m always filming and going on trips, even if I'm not on a specific project and travelling as much or even filming at home as much. But whenever I have ideas I go out and try and do it. I have a mental checklist of tricks that I've always wanted to do, some I’ve tried at different times and others I’ve always wanted to do, so every video part is like a new chance to try and accomplish those things. Aside from that, it’s just travelling and seeing spots and thinking what I believe would be cool to do at that spot, just the way it is shaped and what tricks would look best there.
Skateboarding has changed a lot in the last years content-wise, what are your thoughts on this? Like the demise of full-length video projects.
I love projects and having a clear set deadline, like you have to have your part finished by this time and it’s exciting when other people are involved in that process. So it would be a bummer if the idea of full-length videos are gone. It’s just shaped differently now, Toy Machine just put out a video last week, a full video, but it was just released differently in individual parts.
That’s a great point, the camaraderie of the whole team being involved in the video and working collectively to finish it.
Yeah, that's what I grew up around, so that’s what I'm used to. The whole solo parts thing, for me, is super hard to find motivation for and to think about them in the same sense. It doesn’t seem like it has as much value unless you’re doing it with other people.
But I also think that skateboarding is big enough so that it doesn’t have to be this way or that way, these guys or those guys. There is room for a lot of different variances in the way people skateboard and their approach to it and what their product is that they’re putting out, whether it be a video part, a contest run or even a reality tv show. Skateboarding is so huge and there’s room for all of it. That’s what makes it interesting. It’s like music, in the 70s disco was really popular therefore that is what music was, then when people listened to other music, it didn’t mean disco was done. Did heavy metal kill rock’n’roll? No, it’s still alive and people still make it and listen to it. It’s just another thing going on too. I like to think of it like that, now that there aren’t as many full-lengths going on, people still appreciate them and these short online parts, they are tools as well, they work as a project for people and are a place to put it out. There’s just different approaches depending on what you’re into.
In a similar fashion to your Inhabitants part and getting SOTY that year, are you backing your adidas teammate Mark Suciu this year after the monster Verso part he recently put out?
Yeah totally, he’s such an amazing skateboarder and that part really showed it. Just how diverse he is and how good of a skate mind he has. I think he changed up video parts a little bit and it made an impact on the way videos are made, like the way he ended it with that last little section, it was different and new. Some people might think it was nerdy but I think it was super cool. I think he should win, he’s had a huge impact on skateboarding as a whole this year.
Yeah, I think that part stuck the knife in and twisted it!
Another thing I like about Mark and the way he skates, he does things tastefully, he picks good spots and thinks a lot about his tricks, he brings the importance of it. A lot of people are like, whatever I can do here is cool, but with him there’s more to it, not ‘I’m at this spot I can do this trick’. He looks at what footage he has and what he needs and how it might work together, he brings an art to the video project.
It’s almost a mathematical approach?
Yeah, he has a better mind than I, haha.
Onto shoes, what is it that you look for in a skate shoe and have you tried to bring these features to the signature models you’ve had?
With shoes in general I don’t like toes that are too bulbous, I like to have a slender toe, not too pointy and a slim profile. I’ve always been a fan of cross-trainers like the adidas Marathon, so bringing a trail running aspect to it, which I did in my first shoe. And the recessed mid-sole, which was on the SLR model. But for skating, just a simple clean toe, good shape.
Basically this Campus ADV, which is just out! Haha.
That thing is awesome, such a cool shoe and the materials we used, a more premium leather goes really well and gives it a softer feel. I often think cupsoles can be stiff and hard but they don’t have to be. It’s just a classic adidas shoe, so with the crinkly leather and suede stripes, it’s just elegant and does justice to the shoe.
I know you’re super close friends with Dennis Busenitz, but I don’t think I've ever seen you wear his shoe, you don’t like it?
Hahaha, why would I wear that guy's shoe! No, I’ve worn it but only filmed one or two tricks in it. It feels a little weird on my foot, I don’t know what it is. I like the look of the regular one but I’ve skated the Vulc one more. I have tried to ride it! Haha.
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