Interviewing Josh Kalis from my bedroom wasn't something I was expecting to be doing during lockdown, but you can't really turn down an opportunity to talk with one of true legends in the game. Read on to find Josh discussing his history with DC, his favourite models and the importance of Love Park in all of this.
Let's start with how you first got hooked up with DC?
The first hook up with DC Shoes was from via Rob Dyrdek, this was when Rob was hanging out with Ken Block a lot. Ken was giving away DC’s out of the trunk of his car, it was a company but it was so small. I rode for adidas at the time, but I wasn’t really clicking with what they were trying to do.
We were at the ASR Trade Show in San Diego and adidas had this huge poster of me on their booth, it was a pretty bad ad. They weren’t using skate photographers at the time, so it was pretty bad! When I was at the DC booth they were all laughing at me, friendly laughter you know what I mean? Ken Block says, ‘hey, you like that?’ and pointed to the big adidas advertisement hanging from the ceiling - and I was just like, you know what, give me shoes and I’ll leave adidas right now.
I did like 2 years maybe of flow for DC, they sent me all over the place man, all over the world. One time when I got back I had to give DC an ultimatum because the other shoe companies were making me these great offers. So DC pulled the trigger and put me on the team.
What was it like getting on DC at that time? The team back then was crazy with Rick Howard, Mike Carroll and those guys...
I lived on the East Coast, so I wasn’t really around those guys much of the time, it wasn’t really a family feeling. I was out building my own family for DC with Stevie, Pappalardo and Wenning and those guys. When we’d get together and do something like the Super Tour, there was always this feeling of being somewhat of an outsider, but at the same time I was looking around at these skaters I was with, holy shit look who I’m with, let me watch all this and see what I can learn. It was pretty extraordinary.
What were your go to DC Shoes back then?
I really like the Rudy Johnson’s that had the big DC logo on the heel, and then the Dyrdek 2. When that shoe came out I loved that shoe. Once they did the Lynx, it was all about the Lynx. At the time it was kind of a slimmed down shoe. The Dyrdek 2 and the Lynx, I fucking love those shoes.
What made the Lynx so special?
I think because DC started at this perfect window of time, skateboarding maybe needed or was looking for some good creation. It started in 1994, the same year Supreme started, it was this window of time for change. People were figuring out what was really dope for skating, the look, the feel, the environments. Big New York City, big Philadelphia. It was just a great period of time for that to happen. Having me and Stevie come in around 96/97 and really pushing what we were doing, it was just magic you know.
What was Stevie’s influence on your personally? In terms of skateboarding, style and also outlook?
Stevie was born into Philadelphia and born into Love Park, you almost want to say it was in his blood. I was essentially a migrator, I come through and I look at somebody like Stevie and I’m just like damn - I'm not saying I wish I grew up like that, but it’s a respect thing. This dude is from what I really want to be about, he was the guy, you know what I mean?
I had the opportunity to take him along with me, though maybe that’s not the right wording. I don’t like going into a city, or someone else’s territory, and taking from that area. There’s got to be a way of giving back, and the way that me and Stevie clicked and worked together, the way we looked on camera, it was so good. This is his stuff, you know what I mean, who am I to come in here and capitalise on it as much as I can without giving back somehow?
It was like me trying to give back an instant return, at the same time it helped me, and we were boys. He looked out for me every time I was there, Love Park was pretty dangerous back then, especially for an outsider kid. Stevie looked out and he saved my butt a couple of times (laughs). Yeah, I pushed as hard as I could to help Stevie get through whatever he was going through.
"Everything about that shoe came from my influences and my passion of being at Love Park everyday"
The first Kalis model with DC was in 1999, what was your role in that?
I say it was probably 50/50, I wasn’t that educated on this stuff back then. When I look back I think part of its success comes from sales, part of it comes from design and part of it comes from me as the skater and how the visuals were. If I remember right, DC would send me drafts of how it looked and I would take a pencil, make changes and ask questions. We went back and forth a few times and then finally we got a sample made. It really was a team effort from the people inside the building and then me out in Philly.
I read that this shoe was one of the first to attract attention from sneaker heads outside of skating?
Part of my thought on that shoe was that I was getting tired of wearing two different shoes - one for skating and one for chilling. I wanted a shoe that was the same for both, whether you’re walking to the store to get a pack of smokes, or looking fresh in a photo when you open up Transworld or Thrasher. I wanted to get the best of both worlds. Skate shoes back then literally looked like a skate shoe. You had the the non-skate shoes that people skated in sometimes cos it was dope to skate in a non-skate shoe. I wanted to create a cool little crossover.
How much of a part did Love Park play in forming the shoes you were wearing and designing?
The shoe was born at Love Park, everything about that shoe was at Love. When I’m looking at the designs I’m sitting on the ledge at Love, when I’m testing it out I’m skating the flat ground at Love, when I wanted people’s opinion on it it was at Love. Everything about that shoe, from my end, came from my influences and my passion of being at Love Park everyday.
You, Stevie and the other locals put Love on the map. Was it a proud moment when you had the likes of Brian Wenning and AVE coming to Love and filming some iconic stuff for the DC Video?
It was surreal to be honest with you, I remember sitting in there sometimes and just watching the plaza being alive. Everyone was really supportive, for the most part, of Stevie and I’s movement. There was competition there, some of the dudes that were getting put on other companies were awesome, but at the same time we had to make sure our stuff was front and centre. It really was surreal when I sit back and think about it.
Fast forward, seeing the Sabotage guys actively trying to find those old DC’s, carrying on that tradition they saw as unique to Philly, how was that for you?
At first I didn’t really understand it, I thought it was cool, but I didn’t really understand it. I had a couple of conversations with Brian Panebianco, he was the first dude that I really saw doing that. He straight up told me ‘this is Philadelphia skateboarding to us, we wanted to continue on what you guys did’ to them that was Philadelphia skateboarding, that was their vision for it too. As soon as he told me he was straight up 100% into it, I was like ok I’m about it, whatever I can do to help you pursue your dream and vision with all this, let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.
How much have you been able to do to help those guys get hooked up off the back of it?
I would push for it, it gets confusing for people that haven’t seen that style in a long time, so it’s kinda like a history lesson. This is part of DC’s heritage and history, there’s a completely new guard of people who have taken this on and are progressing it. I am always in the conversation trying to show and promote that and those guys too.
"The story doesn’t stop, it’s just a different chapter"
Is it surreal at all to see the fashion come full circle, you’ve got kids born maybe 15 years ago in the Lynx’s with the skinny boards and baggy pants?
Man, it’s so cool, to be honest with you it’s amazing to me. I don’t know really how to express the feelings and emotions that I get when I see it, it really makes me smile and makes me want to continue what I'm doing. Keep helping open doors, push people through them, give them the motivation and just be there as a support system.
Whether it’s the guys in Philly, or the new younger kids who are watching the old videos, putting the shoes on their feet and wearing the track pants. I just want to be able to help give the opportunity, I try to watch and follow as much as I can. I still got the same passion for the whole thing was well, you know what I mean?
Are there any projects you’ve got coming up with DC you can tell us about?
There will be more re-issues, I don’t know exactly what’s in the schedule, they actually keep that from me from time to time because I leak everything (laughs). I just get excited and I have to put it out there. I get a lot of messages from some really rad DIY designers from all over the world, they create colour ways, send collab ideas, I really want to work on doing something like that with these kids. This virus thing has kinda slowed things down with certain releases and whatnot, we’re trying to get through this so we can continue all that momentum that we had.
There’s some video projects coming up. We’ve got a DC East Coast thing coming soon. We’ve been filming for it on and off for quite a while now, so footage is stacking - Jahmir Brown, Justin Adeniran and Kevin Bilyeu will be in there. Now they got the municipal building, it’s essentially Love Park. Right across the street, it’s got the same vibe. The story doesn’t stop, it’s just a different chapter.
All photography by Mike Blabac.
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