We recently chatted with Chops of The Chrome Ball Incident about his referencing point within the industry, some surreal moments that have stemmed from his blog and how the ads have changed. He even ran us through some of his favourite scans (Chrome Ball style). Enjoy –
Interview by Stephen Cox
Let’s start off with yourself.
Non-descript white dude with a penchant for magazine collecting and assorted nerdery. I am currently 35 years of age and recently relocated from cloudy Pittsburgh, PA to rainy Portland, OR.
How did you meet wood and wheels?
I got into skateboarding after seeing Animal Chin one day after school at a buddy’s house when I was in the 5th grade. He had an older brother who skated that we all thought was real cool so we naturally gravitated towards everything he liked anyway but I was basically blindsided by an entire culture that day.
And Chrome Ball?
I started Chrome Ball when I was working a boring desk job at a real estate company. The job was just lax enough yet paying the bare minimum I needed while allowing me to try out various projects on the side that I actually enjoyed. It was an easy job so I could sneak in various Chrome Ball Incident stuff on the clock without them really noticing… Weird to think of all the people I talked to and things I accomplished in that parking lot while pretending to be in the bathroom.
“This ad is probably most important because I remember searching for this specifically online one day and I could not find it. A few days later, Chrome Ball was born.”
Interviews when you were meant to be working?
For sure! Interviews, posts… I’m pretty sure I even designed my Nike colorway on the clock.
[Laughs]. Why Chops?
Chops comes from something my Mom used to always say whenever she was feeling slighted, I guess it’s an old saying: “What am I? Chopped liver?”
Not what I expected.
I found myself using it in different forms for projects over the years and for whatever reason, decided it would be a good name for an internet moniker… since I had to give one when signing up to make the site. I’ve more or less regretted it ever since. Had I known people would actually give a shit about Chrome Ball, I would’ve probably tried to think of something a bit snappier/cooler. “Furious Styles” always sounded like a good one… oh well, the dye has been cast.
[Laughs]. How has the move went?
The move went well, thanks. The Mrs. and our cats are doing just fine here in the Pacific Northwest. Really dig it, actually.
What does the other half think of Chrome Ball?
I’m lucky in that Tara (my fiancée) is incredibly supportive of everything I do… as I try to be for her as well, of course. But I honestly can’t imagine anyone being so accepting of their significant other giving up virtually all their spare time throughout the week to scan twenty year-old skateboarding magazine articles for a blog. Good god. But not only is she is accepting, she actually seems pretty interested, believe it or not… I’ve seen her take out fools more than a few times on some skate trivia shit.
“Another one of personal significance for obvious reasons. Memory Screen changed whole my way of thinking.”
That’s cool. My girlfriend actually encouraged me to start up The Deaf Lens. When’s the wedding date?
Sooner than later, for sure. There’s a local donut shop here in Portland that also doubles as a wedding chapel that we’ve been looking at. She’s stoked on it… her idea actually.
What’s the magazine count totaling up to? Are they well-kept?
The mag count is pretty ridiculous at this point… which is all well and good but does have its drawbacks if you’re paying to have them moved cross-country, for example. It turns out this whole skatehoarding thing can be quite expensive in that regard. And honestly, they’re pretty thrashed. Organized but thrashed. Doing this blog has not been beneficial to their condition but they’re skate mags, for God’s sake. They’re supposed to be all fucked up. I’m not trying to be the Comic Book Store guy here.
Nearly five years of Chrome Ball. Anything special planned for the occasion?
Just making it to five years is enough for me, you greedy bastards.
Just kidding. I don’t know… the fifth anniversary is in April so I have some time to figure something out by then. I hope. I’ve always just kinda made it up as I go along.
Can you tell us about your favorite memories or most surreal experiences of Chrome Ball over the years?
Most surreal experience? Shit… the whole damn thing. The people I’ve been able to talk to… to ask them questions and they actually answer them!? Forget it. And all the collaborations I’ve had to opportunity to do and somebody gives a shit? Nuts. But if I had to pick one… it would probably be John Cardiel congratulating me on that Chrome Ball Incident colorway that Nike SB put out a few years ago. That whole thing just sounds made-up.
“Three of my favorite dudes. Cards, Sanch and my man Jon Constantino in the background.”
We’re aware that you’re not in the hating game. What do you make of forums?
The Chrome Ball Incident is basically positive by default. If I’m going to take the time to dig up all of a skater’s ads and editorial, I basically have to be a fan on some kind of level or I wouldn’t be doing all that. Not to say that if you’re not on the site, I’m not a fan but I think a lot more can be said by who isn’t on the site than who is with regard to this question. Some skaters I just haven’t gotten around to posting yet, while others… nah.
That’s a good way of looking at it.
Not that I want everything to be on some kumbaya shit but I essentially felt the internet doesn’t need yet another person talking shit. God forbid someone actually likes something. Yikes!
The thing with Chrome Ball is that there’s a possibility the person I’m talking shit about (if that were the case) could actually see it and come back at me. And who the hell am I? But having said all that, I do like forums. I’m not a fan of the high school bandwagon-esque mentalities I see on there at times but overall, these things definitely serve a positive function for the most part. I lurk on a few quite frequently. It’s people talking about skating, so I’m always interesting. And the more takes on it, the better… just as long as there is more than one take, you know? It’s all opinion anyway and there really are no right answers. People get so caught up in such stupid shit.
Favorite interviews you have both read in magazines or watched?
That AVE interview that came out in Transworld a few years ago during Mind Field was pretty damn impressive. And I always dig Nieratko and O’Dell’s Epicly Later’d stuff… pretty much consistently incredible. Mark Whiteley, I owe that dude a ton.
And if you could only do one more interview who would it be with and why?
If I could only do one more interview… well, there was a documentary on Rocco so that kinda takes that out. I’d say probably Julien.
Because he’s so mysterious… even his name. Just a smart dude with a timeless style that has either found himself in or brought about personally some very important and legendary events in skateboarding. Yet, he rarely gives interviews.
“This dude with that board that high… perfect.”
I prefer reading an interview. Would you move to video interviews?
Both formats have their merits… as with anything, I think it largely depends on who’s involved and what they can bring to it. But no, I’d never move to video interviews. I’m way too fidgety and self-conscious… I’m getting tensed up just thinking about it. [Laughs] it would be a disaster!
Give it a go. How do you think adverts in magazines have changed?
I think ads, like graphics, have become much safer in recent years for the most part but there are always people out there doing it right… Anti-Hero, Enjoi, Skate Mental, Roger, Girl, etc. But yeah, I suppose there’s more money to be made so I guess the tendency by some is to play it closer to the vest.
Favorite ads is a hard one… the cryptic stuff Stecyk did for Powell, the boogerific magnificence of Jim Phillips’ Santa Cruz, Swank’s early DIY xerox-ed out work, and the mid-90’s DLX (Real, 40’s, Stereo) stuff was all amazing… but for me, it always comes back to the Rocco/World stuff. Perfection. Snide humor, infinitely quotable, great riders, classic graphics… the best.
Can you tell us about your work with both Epicly Later’d and Already been Done? What involvement do you have?
Already Been Done has, in fact, been done for a while now but I was doing interviews for them. It was fun and working with Rob Brink was really good. He’s a super nice dude and I miss his editing skills miserably. He could always whip my long-winded ass into shape quick-fast.
“An all-time favorite of mine… even though I have no idea what it means. Hopefully I never find out.
Interesting sidenote: I asked Jason Lee about this ad when I interviewed him and he had no idea what I was even talking about. Even radder.”
Brink told us the feeling was mutual. How did you two get involved?
I think he just hit me up one day via email. With Chrome Ball existing primarily outside the industry in parts unknown, that’s been the primary avenue of coming in contact with most people. No big thing… just saw him the other day actually.
I got involved with Epicly Later’d essentially out of just being a fan. Someone told me that they’d used a couple of Chrome Ball scans from the site for the Gino episodes so I hit them up to see if there was anything I could do to help ‘em out. That show has always been a huge influence on whatever it is I’m trying to do with Chrome Ball so I figured if I could lend a hand on something, sick. I send ‘em over scans whenever they ask for something but I don’t want to overstate what I do for them. That’s their thing and I really feel what Patrick and Chris are doing with it is very important.
Any spare Chrome ball shoes lying about?
I have a couple in my personal stash but that’s about it. Sorry, man.
Worth a try. Can you run through the shoe story for those that already haven’t heard it?
That whole shoe thing was pretty crazy. I think I’d only been doing the blog for around a year or so and was actually considering calling it quits when Nike SB asked me to do a colorway. I didn’t even believe ‘em at first… totally thought they were full of shit but it all worked out and was a really great experience. They’ve always been big supporters of mine and I appreciate it. Big up to Rob Sissi.
And the graphic?
The board just came about through being friends with Nick, one of the guys behind Scumco & Sons. The graphic is a Chin reference and came with our own little take on the old Rip Grip stickers which came out great but largely confused the hell out of everybody. I think I overestimated how many people actually remember that stuff.
“I remember tripping out on this layout when I was 10. God only knows what they were up to back in those days. Changing the world.”
What do you make of magazines taking on the digital format?
I think it can work. I’ve seen a few non-skate magazines already do some incredible things within that format. But there is something to be said for a “hard copy.”
What has to be said?
You’re not going to find a stack of old internet links in your closet fifteen years from now. They’ll just be gone.
True. We read your ESPN interview where you said it Chrome Ball was supposed to end five times over. Can you tell us what you meant by that and maybe reassure some readers that this is no longer the case?
Honestly, I would never have thought I’d be doing The Chrome Ball Incident almost five years into it. Not to make myself out to be some kind of martyr but it really is a lot of work. Plus, there really is only so much stuff that you can use for this sort of thing. It’s such a finite resource and I’ve always been ultra-concerned with overstaying my welcome. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time (including my own) with posting crap that nobody cares about. “Hey guys! Here’s a post on the Toxic Wheels Team! Get stoked!” Yipes!
Hopefully it never comes to that. But I will say that I’ve been sitting on what will be Chrome Ball’s final post for just about the last year now. So when it is time to go, I’m pretty sure I have something special to pull the curtains with.
That would be a sad day. We think don’t think you will. Would there be tears?
That’s kind of the point actually. The last thing I want is the end of Chrome Ball to be a mercy killing.
“Something about this photo, man… An epic session with your bros in the middle of nowhere for no other reason but the obvious. Thank you skateboarding.”
What videos have you been excited about?
Pretty Sweet just came out and those Girl and Chocolate guys really seem to be making a go at it with this whole skateboarding hobby of theirs. I think they just might have a future in it.
We saw your comments about it. I was gutted about no Rick.
Yeah, but you have to respect his decision. No part is always better than a “bad” one. Not saying that I don’t want to see him skate by any stretch whatsoever.
You’re somewhat regarded as a skate ‘nerd’ and critic of sorts. hat do you have to say about that?
Going home at night to scan old magazines for a blog is about as hopelessly nerdy as it comes, man. I’ve come to grips with that. It’s fine. And it’s actually proven kinda advantageous in a way as that label really allows people to let their guards down in conversation and totally nerd-out on shit worse than I ever would. But let’s face it: if you’re passionate about something, you’re a nerd. It comes with the territory. Cut the cool shit.
I remember ten years ago thinking that skateboarding couldn’t get anymore technical or better. I’m thinking the same again now, though I know I’m wrong. Where do you see skateboarding going at least in terms of street?
I hope it continues to expand in every possible direction. Tricks will evolve and trends will change. Those tricks that everyone agrees are “gross” today will be the coolest thing ever in 10 years. Bonelesses and no-complies are back and totally accepted where that shit wouldn’t have flown not too long ago. It’s only a matter of time before yo-flips and ho-hos get the nod.
“This one always makes me happy. I’ve wanted a Volvo ever since.”
How do you see things progressing?
Tranny is back. Curbs are back. There’s this glorious acceptance of variety going on right now that was quite scarce in decades past. It really is great to see. One of the best things about skateboarding over the years is observing its constant evolution. Let’s hope this never ends.
Chrome Ball finishing: last words? Anything to add to this thing?
Just big ups to everyone out there that has supported me and the site. I can’t thank you guys enough. And love to my family and friends.
Might as well get a quotation as well.
Choking under pressure here with the quotation, though… damn. Sorry. Wait! “Adventure today.” That’s a good one, I suppose. Thanks for the interview, man.
Go check out The Top Ten Pro Spolights Chops did recently for Transworld over at The Chrome Ball Incident. For those who have never visited the blog, we’ll unfortunately more than likely never see you again.
Follow Chops on Instagram: chromeball
Feature photo by Tony Moore
Follow Stephen Cox on Twitter: @stephen_coxy
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