Interview & Intro by Dustin Umberger
Malcolm’s been a mainstay in the skate scene since the early 90’s, and yet his influence has always been subtle. You’d think that a guy with such skills (flip-in-flip-out tricks, creative and technical manuals, super smooth style) would eventually rise to meet his due fame and fortune – but skateboarding doesn’t smile down on everyone blessed with the love and the talent. I met Malcolm at Woodward circa ’98, and he completely changed my perception of pro skaters and how they relate to their fans. Humble, intelligent, and truly gifted, Malcolm has quietly endured being taken for granted by an industry that favors a different flavor of flare. I’m honored to present the unique perspective of a uniquely talented, uniquely individual skater’s skater. Stay up, Malcolm!
Dustin: You’re one of the few pros who came up alongside the LA heavyweights, earned your keep at the classic spots, and yet never connected with those right companies at that right time. You rode for Acme, Airwalk, Arcade, and then World post-Rocco. What’s your take on the paths you’ve followed in this skate industry?
Malcolm: There are no set guidelines to follow on how the get sponsored. You have guys that hands down rip and deliver classic video part after video part, and they can’t get a sticker from a company. Then on the flip side you’ll have a person that’s been skating 3 years and isn’t strong enough to bust a grape in a fruit fight, and that person has a full sticker job on their board. It’s very subjective and selective – a ton of politics, hate, and bullshit. I’m Morpheus in this skateboard matrix, just trying to manipulate my way through all the fake people. Some people party their way onto the scene and get lost in that lifestyle. Others fake it to make it. For me I’ve chosen the path of the lone wolf.
Dustin: To me your skating is at that Joey Brezinski level of fluidity and unique trick combinations, but your flavor is distinct. Can you talk about trick selection and staying relevant as a technical skater in this world of already-been-dones?
Malcolm: I grew up in a different era in skateboarding where what tricks you did where equally as important as how you looked doing them. That’s something that’s just stuck with me over the years. Watching legends like Keenan Milton, Guy, Ray Barbee, and Tommy G. – they all have style for days. Watching their video parts is like watching someone dance on a skateboard… perfectly on beat. The already-been-done factor is so high now that I don’t even watch videos. I pick and choose.
Dustin: You’ve been going to Woodward in the most Amish part of the U.S. for well over a decade. What keeps you going back? How has the camp changed, and can you reveal a few choice camp tales?
Malcom: I was blessed with the opportunity to skate Woodward on a road trip in ‘95. After that summer, they asked me if I wanted to come back each year and of course I said yes. Woodward for me has been there through it all, from the point of having a little list of sponsors to not one sticker on my board. Each summer they keep stepping up the level of things to skate. But just like Vegas, what happens at Woodward stays at Woodward…
Dustin: USC was the spot, and it was definitely yours by virtue of the footage. What was the vibe like in its heyday? Were you good friends with most of the heavy hitters?
Malcolm: The Blocks was basically our South Central Love Park. What Pulaski Park was to D.C. in the 90′s, our EMB. It was just the perfect spot to let your imagination run wild. Endless ledges and manny pads. Skate, chill, watch girls walk though, hit Starbucks across the street, then skate some more. The vibe was always dope at the blocks because on any given day you’d have the best heads skating there. One day you’d have Jason Dill and A.V.E. focusing one another’s boards with a smile, then the next day the whole Girl team would show up banging out clips for the Mouse video. I wouldn’t say I’m good friends with most of the industry heads but more so just colleagues.
Dustin: Your presence in skateboarding has been defined as much by your personality as your skill on the board. It’s hard to imagine a pissed off Malcom Watson. What keeps you grounded and positive? Have you any connection to Karl Watson, by name or spirit?
Malcolm: Thanks. All I ever really wanted to do was skateboard and travel. I didn’t sign up to get a full 8 oz. of stickers on my board. I’m positive because I made it out of South Central at a time where there was a body dropping on my block every other week. Where the life expectancy is so low we made out will’s at 18. I used a skateboard to get out the hood and it’s allowed me to travel all over the world. How can you be mad at that?? Karl, that’s my brother….
Dustin: Your move to NY was somewhat unexpected. What’s your daily program these days? Are you satisfied with the situation?
Malcolm: I moved every 3 months for 3 years. NYC, Philly, and Chicago – basically chasing the sun. NY was the best so we kept going back. I’d always wanted to live in those places for longer than a road trip and when the opportunity presented itself we had to grab it. My daily routine consists of waking up early with the birds, calling shops to get my product on the wall, then around 2 pm I hit the streets for a few hours before working graveyard shift. I’m never satisfied. That incomplete feeling is what drives me to wanna do more. We’re all chasing that feeling of landing a trick for first time – that priceless moment.
Dustin: Arcade was a unique company. The skaters were legit, but the roster was filled with underrated rippers. SAD always struck me as an interesting dude. Who were you closest to on that team, and any SAD stories?
Malcolm: Arcade was amazing. The first video Gumbo basically summed up our vision – just a unique group of skaters that all had different styles. Nowadays most companies want a group of guys that look the same and skate the same stuff. It makes things pretty bland. People are scared of being different. I’m still close to half the heads on the team – Steve Hernandez, Daniel Haney, SAD, J Rog, Rodney Torres, and Casey Rigney. I remember SAD smoking so much weed on the way to Vancouver that he passed out with his eyes open. We thought he was dead in the van…
Dustin: How often are you out filming and shooting photos these days? Besides the few full-length parts you’ve put out, are you holding out on any clips?
Malcolm: I try to film a clip every time I skate but it’s more enjoyable to just leave the camera in the bag and just skate. I like to just roll around and if I get close to landing something then try to film it. As far as shooting photos it’s a bit of a struggle. I’m working on some projects with Burnett that should be out soon but as far as shooting a photo it’s rare. There’re only a few true magazines and photographers that are down for me. With the politics of not having sponsors that don’t advertise in whatever magazine you can forget about ever being seen in those magazines. No matter what trick you’re doing. I’m working on a Super 8 part that will end up on my YouTube channel. After that’s complete I’ll just keep the ball rolling with a few clips per week dropping on the net.
Dustin: What’s your impression of the East Coast scene, and have you explored the coast south of NY? Philly? DC? Do you feel that LA will always be home?
Malcolm: My impression of the East Coast scene is unique and raw. I haven’t had the pleasure of spending much time in D.C. yet. I always wanted to skate Pulaski Park. I need to make that happen once the winter is over. Home is where the heart is and my heart is all over the place. That’s the beauty of skateboarding – It’s not about east, west, north, or south – it’s just skateboarding. You could travel to China, Spain, Russia, even Africa and find people enjoying amazing spots on their skateboard. Even if it’s a parking block in the middle of nowhere, that’s home to me.
Dustin: When you are around the younger generation of skaters, and all the talent and all the competitiveness that exists now, do you feel that you still have a role to fulfill in skateboarding? What’s the plan for 2012?
Malcolm: I just enjoy being around skateboarding. It’s doesn’t matter if you’re trying the hardest trick at the session; it’s just something about being there. The competitiveness has always been there. Look back at Ohio Skate Out and Savannah Slamma. That was the 80′s and those where classic contests. The only thing that changes is the prize money. You’ve always had contest guys in skateboarding and underground rippers that couldn’t care less about a contest. It’s great for skateboarding because it helps the art grow. At a certain point kids want to get sponsored, and eventually they stop having to spend money at skate shops. Without the Maloof contest, SL contest and X-Games bringing national attention to the art, it’s wouldn’t have continued to grow. My plans for 2012 is to stay healthy, get my company off the ground, and ride ‘til the wheels fall off.
Thanks for the opportunity to get this done and shout out to everybody that kept it 100% with me. The list is too long but they know who they are… See you in traffic.