I had a few words with Danny alongside the Balmorhea Interrogation interview I did over at The Berrics surrounding Colin Kennedy’s great video (check it out below) and we got to talking some more. Danny’s solo project, “Reverend Baron” is definitely something to keep your ears open for, don’t let his modesty sidetrack you. Talk of music, an acquired taste found for skateboarding and transcendent moments sought for between two passions. Enjoy –
Interview by Stephen Cox
Photography by Johnny Martinez
Portrait by Raymond Molinar
Hi Danny, what are you up to right now?
I’m just relaxing. Just moved into a new house, a new place. I’ve been working on it for the last few days.
Yeah, just moving some stuff in. But yeah, I’ve never had a backyard with plants and trees so this is my first go at being a gardener.
Last time we spoke it was about the Balmorhea music video you featured in. How was the video received after we spoke?
I think it was alright. Colin was really thankful as well as the band. I thought it turned out pretty awesome. A small group my friends saw it and were into it. I think it was a success because it fulfilled Colin’s vision. That’s all you can ask for.
You were also on the road too in Oklahoma City with Matt Costa. Good times thereafter?
Yeah, I think so. For me personally, it was. Those things are good. You just play music all the time and get to move around the country a bunch. For my musicianship it’s pretty valuable. You play for people and with people live. It’s a different thing than sitting at home playing music all time, which I do. When you’re out there playing for people in different environments it changes a little bit.
What surprises or differences have you come across with different audiences?
You just get different vibes from different people. When we’re out on tour Matt has his fans, and there are different types of fans. We would play a show an there are a bunch of older people, more mature audiences who seem to be more interested in maybe the actual songwriting, then there is the younger college girls who just kind of know one of his songs from a movie or something. They go and basically just want to hear one song. Other than that they’re not totally interested. They’re just sitting having a good time, which is cool. They’re kind of loud and dancing around – and that’s fun too – but there’s different vibes with different crowds. I can kind of sum it up: I got to see different ways people like to have fun. Most people are just getting out and trying to release something, maybe they’ve been working all week. There are different ways of doing that. Sometimes they’re in your face and screaming. They’re screaming just to scream. Sometimes they’re really quiet and attentive though.
Do you prefer that?
I do, I’ve noticed with some of the bands I’ve played with. I kind of like it. When they’re quiet, it kind of feels nice. If you’re writing songs and you’re thinking about words and putting so much energy to all these things, it’s cool to have that being received. I like that vibe. I even like a sitting room crowd. That’s the way I’ll enjoy a show, I like being quiet and sitting listening.
I listened to all the tracks you sent me over and loved them. Are they under your solo act of Reverend Baron?
Yeah, they are the newest songs that I’ve recorded.
How was the composition and recording process?
I recorded those at a studio I’ve rented for a while. A friend of mine – Corey – he plays drums for me when I play live – built this studio maybe fifteen years ago in the Orange County area. I’ve been posted there, learning how to use a couple of things, record and get the stuff down. I do a lot of stuff by myself or bring in a couple of buddies like Matt and Corey and work it all out. Those are all little experiments and collages.
Those tracks haven’t been released yet then?
No I think I’m going to – this time around – master them, warm them up a little more. They need a tiny bit of work. I’ll get those mastered and put them up online like I did with the last group of songs.
Where does the name Reverend Baron come from?
It’s something Matt and I came up with. It’s the name of both of our first dogs. He had a dog named Baron and I had a dog named Reverend. It was a weird…we just wanted to have a name for some recordings. It was basically a shared thing and it’s become more mine in a way.
How was the self-titled album received?
It’s been alright. I haven’t gotten much back; I think I did it just to do it. I didn’t really promote it. You’re best just playing then if people ask, tell them where to find it. I put it out mainly just to please myself, make myself feel a sense of accomplishment. I shared it with friends and things. It’s out there I guess.
How do you define Reverend Baron in terms of genre?
It’s always tricky. I like the word folk. To me, it means music made by everyday people, a common person, not a virtuoso. I just consider myself an untrained folk musician, making something. The ideas are very folk as well. I like stories, the simple ideas.
How important is music to you in relation to your skating? Perhaps more so in the sense that a skateboarding career is usually touted as being very short lived.
I can say that I realized a couple of years ago that nobody is perfectly balanced. I’ve created an opportunity for me to be balanced with spending time skateboarding and playing music, however that is whether it’s by myself. I realized that I set up an opportunity for myself. When you’re skateboarding all day, every day it’s awesome. But I was doing that for years and it kind of started getting to me, it really bummed me out. Mainly because I was doing the same thing every day – and I like doing that – but having a couple of avenues to explore is good. They’re similar, but they’re different worlds. I have different friends in each world and I’m able to swing back and forth easily.
I know for the most part you haven’t selected your own music in your video parts. Has anything changed about track selection in skating videos?
One thing that has changed is all the copyright issues. I imagine that’s changed the game as far as what people are using. Growing up I got turned onto Van Morrison and stuff like that. It’s probably harder to get that stuff now.
Are there windows of opportunity for musicians in that respect? Perhaps the exposure isn’t substantial enough to make this worth talking about.
I think there’s something there. That’s a tough one. Skateboarding is very much on the Internet now. People are putting stuff all the time. In a way it’s watered down but there are opportunities for people to combine motion and music. It’s watered down but then every now and again you’ll see something awesome.
How flexible are Habitat and your other sponsors with your musical pursuits? Has music taken precedence?
I’ve been more distant. I’m not in total contact with them. They’ve always been, “alright do your thing and we’ll work with you in whatever way we can”. Now that I think about it, Joe Castrucci has been really awesome. He basically says, but not in these words, that it’s worthwhile to pursue and we’ll work with it. They have been supportive.
Are consciously trying to balance the two ?
It’s like anything, I guess. It’s like over eating and drinking. You swear you’ll never do it again. You kind of recover and then…All I did was skateboard. I’m a professional skateboarder. It’s been all I’ve asked to do. Naturally you go so crazy with it. You burn yourself out, that’s the most common term. I think now I’m slowing down and coming back to it. It seems like fun again; going out shooting photos and some filming. Doing it every day is almost pointless. It’s almost a negative, and can affect you negatively.
You’ve been on the Habitat team for a long time. What are the strongest relationships you have?
I don’t talk to the guys as much and I haven’t been on the trip in a while, maybe a year. But you know, I don’t think about too much. Even a couple of months ago I went to New York and stayed with Stefan [Janoski]. I still have those contacts. It’s kind of tricky to explain in words. It’s easy going and I don’t have to think too much about it.
Did you skate with Stefan?
We just sat around and drank some wine, playing guitar.
There’s quite a lot of talk about Mark Suciu. What’s your opinion of his skating?
I went to Mexico with him a while ago. Yeah, he’s doing it. He’s progressing at a certain rate isn’t he? People ask me about him. I need to go and do my homework and check out his newest stuff because he seems so technically gifted. I remember when I first seen him years ago, he had an interesting style. It was almost funny. It looked a little funny to me. I think he’s growing into that, an awesome recognizable style. To be honest I haven’t seen his newest footage. He’s just so young and I’m guessing that he is continually outgrowing himself.
He received some criticism about the places he was filming. Have you ever been subjected to this?
That stuff is a little silly. I don’t know if I have. Somebody saying that a place is his or hers is super silly. That stuff has created a lot of unnecessary wars and things throughout history, people putting up borders and calling it theirs. That’s just having a narrow perspective in my mind. I’m sure it has happened to me. We naturally are territorial I think. I can’t call one out but a lot of people are territorial in a way. If you’re basically a really young, talented skateboarder, you’re probably going to be pissing people off [laughs]. When you’re really good, people are going to get a little pissed.
True. The Southbank situation is receiving a lot of support from the US scene. Have you ever skated there?
Are there similar ongoing causes for spaces where you are? How important do you think it is that they are retained?
That’s an interesting thing. It happens here a bit. We have forests and open spaces and then somebody wants to come in and develop. There’s a battle. It’s hard to say. I know which side I’m on but it’s hard to say what’s actually right or wrong. What’s bad for me is good for you and vice versa. I think it’s beyond right or wrong. I see that stuff going on, it’s not hard for me to not back putting Starbucks everywhere; we need parks, we need open spaces. We need Target and Walmart but nothing needs to dominate. A little country doesn’t have to be a national forest, but it doesn’t have to be a strip mall. For me, a proper skate place should be part of the balance. Every town should have a decent place to skate. They have decent facilities for someone to play basketball or soccer if they wanted to. I know this happens.
Do you prefer to keep low key with regards to your skating? It’s often hard to know what you’re up to these days.
I like getting out there with people. I usually end up at skateparks because I know people will be there. I’m not the guy that likes to skate by himself all the time but sometimes I end up doing it. A lot of the guys that I have grown up skating with just can’t skate as much because they aren’t professional skateboarders. A lot of people have moved away, there’s a geographical distance. I don’t want to be too low key. I enjoy getting out there. I’m even itching to go on a trip because I haven’t been in so long, and it wasn’t so long ago I was bummed out on them.
The passion comes back then?
Yeah. With anything if you take it away that you do, you’ll start craving it a bit.
You’ve always had the technical ability on lock whilst maintaining your style. Who has influenced you in that respect?
Let me think. When I was young, I took a lot of stuff from the big pros and then I learned a lot from guys that were close to me growing up. I remember wanting to spend time trying to skate rails, so I spent a few months on that: Jamie Thomas or something. Someone like Guy Mariano would push me on the technical side of things. Ronnie Creager and Daewon Song inspired me to work on manuals. Eventually that stuff comes together. At a certain point you actually start thinking about taste you know? You start creating your own personal taste of what you like and don’t like, but mainly what you want to portray and what you want to do. I remember thinking “I want to do a line with a front tail and a back tail to show people that it’s okay to do that on a couple of small ledges”. As long as it has something to it. Things are intangible with skateboarding: why can one guy make something look good and this guy can’t? We say style but that’s just a word for something we can’t explain totally.
What sort of taste do you have now then?
I know when I was younger I wanted to do something that was really hard to do. That’s how it was. And then along the way, I started thinking that I want to do something that is easy but make it awesome somehow. I want to do really simple tricks but somehow make it special. I want people to see it and think it’s special. But we don’t know why it seems special.
Can you think of any examples of this off the top of your head?
Two guys have just popped into my head from when I was younger. Bobby Puelo in that FTC video, I remember watching it. I think that FTC video in general was so simple; there was some awesome stuff in there that looked good. I think that was the spark for me: there’s nothing to it, it’s pretty easy but it’s working somehow. There was a Caesar Singh video part in a Planet Earth video. I think it was Silver. That’s another example. When I saw it I thought it was pretty easy, but it was working for me. Why was it working? Because he had style. Something was going into it, whether it was the filming, the music, or the spots. That’s another thing that changes along the way too. When you start thinking about the terrain and the architecture.
Is that something that isn’t as present in skateboarding now do you think?
I think people don’t have to think about it. There’s a different energy. Everybody puts their energy into something different. Some people really focus on spot selection. I think there was a time for [Anthony] Pappalardo, where that was all he was thinking about. That’s awesome. Some people put all their energy into the actual trick on paper; it’s never been done before. Some people put their energy into what they’re wearing. They’re all valid.
You’ve been at it a long time now. What are your fondest memories?
There’s those kind of transcendent moments – and it happens with music too – where you feel like you’re floating, you actually feel physically different, as if you’re not bound by the laws you live by. You feel like you’re floating: you’re with friends, you’re in an exciting part of the world. Those moments are few and far between and I’m always searching for them.
How do you think age affects your perception of skateboarding at this point?
The first thing about age is that my body has slowed down physically. Not like an old man [laughs]. Then I just start actually thinking a little bit more which is funny. Maybe my mind has matured a little bit. I start looking at things differently. Actual objects. It’s hard to judge. For my psychological benefit I don’t get too involved in the “industry” aspect. I just don’t have the energy. I think it can drive you a bit crazy. It’s like the Wild West out there [laughs]. Everybody is just trying to make money and sometimes it gets pretty funny. It can get ugly or pretty silly. I just try and detach myself a little bit.
How would you like to think you’ve contributed to the history of skateboarding?
My contribution. Well, I know I inspired some folks along the way. Not very many but every now and then someone says I have inspired them or do inspire them. That makes me feel good. In that sense I’m just passing down what was handed to me: “here you go, here’s something to do”. We all need something to do: “here’s my way to do it. Give it a shot”. There have been different skateboarders who have expressed that to me.
Has this happened with your music?
A little bit. With music there’s that connection too. People say they like it. One of the biggest things in skateboarding or music is that you become really good friends with somebody because you are inspired by that person and you respect them. They become inspired by you, and equally respect you. I’ve had that relationship in both music and skateboarding and you become pretty close because of that. You naturally gravitate towards each other and feed off each other. I’ve totally felt that, and I still do. There’s this mutual respect. Even if we don’t say it – and you usually don’t – you just want to be around that person because you know you’re going to get something from them. Not in a bad way, just a legitimate “I’ll get something from them and they might get something from me”.
Is another video part something we can expect soon?
I thought recently I want to do something. I don’t know what I want it to be but yeah, a video part. Some sort of concept, not totally conceptual though. Something to get me going, to get me sparked. I don’t know how long that would take me to do or how I’m going to put it out but it should be easy with the Internet and all that.
Would you try and incorporate your music?
I wouldn’t be against it. Maybe that would be the concept. Film a part according to a certain track.
Use “Is it True”. I think it would go well.
Cool. Yeah, I think that one is interesting too. I don’t really know why I like it. That’s part of the vibe of it. It has some sort of vibe that I can’t explain.
What are the musical plans for the rest of the year?
I’ve just started playing live. I want to explore that where I can. That’s new for me and that’s cool. I’m just sitting around my house playing and then recording. It’s another world for me to explore. If I can, I would like to do that more and I’m playing with Matt here and there. I want to put those songs I sent you online. Eventually make some hard copies. I’d like to make a record in the next couple of years. No big plans.
Can we finish up with a track recommendation?
I always get into one song [laughs]. I’ve been listening to The Lovin’ Spoonful a lot. Listen to ‘Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind’.
Thanks for this Danny.
Check out Johnny Martinez’s website: www.johnnymartinezphotography.com
– and also Jude Morris
Follow Stephen Cox on Twitter: stephen_coxy