Transworld Skateboarding 8/02
Interview by Grant Brittain
Pushead wasn't always Pushead. He used to be Brian Schroeder.
In fact, he still is-or at least I think he is. The artist formerly
known as "Brian Schroeder" used to frequent the Del Mar Skate Ranch
(oh no! Not this "memory lane" crap again!). He was a part-time
DMST local, splitting up time between California and Boise, Idaho.
He'd skate around and attempt bizarre, avant-garde maneuvers
in various spots around the concrete playground. When he wasn't
attempting some abstract stunt-which needed the possession of a
third leg and a couple of extra fingers-he directed other skaters
to throw up some contortionist moves. He's also known for inventing,
or at least inspiring a handful of tricks. Oh yeah, he also drew
the famous DMSR logo (now a Foundation graphic) for a contest we had.
For his efforts, he received a free month of skating at the park.
Pushead the artist is a skilled renderer of his physical surroundings
and of what goes on in his imagination. In other words, he draws
really well. His expertise in drawing the human form (not to mention
skulls, blood and guts, and cool stuff like that) is unparalleled.
His work makes Gray's Anatomy look like Sponge-Bob SquarePants.
That's pretty slick! His meticulously detailed drawings have adorned
a whole line of classic 80's Zorlac boards, album covers, and they've
been made into logos (Metallica and The Misfits, to name a few), products
(T-shirts, posters, sculptures, etc.), and recently, Adrian Lopez's
Zero board graphic.
His artwork has a worldwide following-he's a celeb in Japan and at
comic-book conventions. For crazy amounts of Pushead info, go to
www.pusfan.com. An oh yeah, read this interview.
We met at the Del Mar Skate Ranch in 1978, right?
It was probably in the fall of 1978. I had just relocated to the
North san Diego County area to skate from Boise, Idaho-Del Mar had
just opened up. You were one of the "cool" workers who wore the
"Ranch" shirt-blue denim with red-bandana shoulders-you might've even
wore the cowboy hat a few times. Not really knowing many people yet
at the park, you were one of the first persons I communicated with...
and it wasn't even about skateboarding, it was music.
In those days, Del Mar wasn't completely finished, and I was lucky enough,
through your help, to work on that monstrous halfpipe. It might've been
grunt work at the end of construction, with those big brick-like blocks
to grind down and smooth the concrete, but it made me feel, as an ousider,
like I was a local. For about a year after that, if I wasn't working,
I was at Del Mar. It was always a relief if you or Jim Alesi were
working the counter. Nothing like getting hasseled by some country-club
golf-pro wannabe working the desk at your favorite place.
What type of memories do you have about Del Mar?
Front reservoir; under airs in the dquare pool; Jay Smith spitting
blood-on purpose-at spectators while doing laybacks in the keyhole; Strople
sarcastically asking me not to skate the keyhole because I was too tall
and made the pool look small; Jay Adams conning someone at the driving
range to give him a bucket of balls and a driver, and then proceeding to
launch balls at speeding cars on I-5; Tatum on his homemade airbrushed
longboards doing lines no one could comprehend in the Kona pool; Kyle Jensen
perfecting the pogo; Kevin Staab making his first fakie ollie in the Kona pool;
during the gas shortage, Owen Neider skating up to the gas station and filling
up gallon cans for us, cutting in front of a two-or-three-hour line, and
never getting hasseled because he was twelve; sleeping in the hi-ball;
meeting so many good people; the list goes on...
But, besides skating and friendships, the most unusual thing had to have
happened in early 1979. It was a Monday afternoon, and I was in the
clubhouse talking to you about the Boomtown Rats gig in San Diego when
a special news report came on the TV and caught out attention. Some girl
with a rifle was shooting at an elementary school, and there was a TV crew
there filming it live. Little kids were walking out of the building,
you'd hear a shot, and then a little kid would go down. It was sad.
Soon no one was skating, and everyone was huddled around watching it
all unfold live on TV.
Where did the Del Mar Logo come from?
The contest. Del Mar had been open three or four months, and the powers
that be decided they wanted to change the logo. I think you were actually
the person who told me about the contest, since you knew I was an artist.
Basically, if you won this logo contest, you got to skate for free for a month.
It was the end of 1978, and I was staying on the floor of a friend's house.
I sat at this little coffee table and tried to come up with elements that
represented the Del Mar Skateboard Ranch. I shaped the main keyhole pool opening
into a horseshoe and added a cartoon-like skater riding an IPS Caster deck with
Tracker magnesium trucks and UFO saucer wheels on the edge of this opening and
added the name.
It was done in black magic India ink and Pelikan color inks. I probably turned
it in to you and waited. I never saw what anyone else did, and I can't say what
happened to the original drawing. I just know I got to the park one day, and
you came up to me and told me they picked my logo...before the official announcement.
I was surprised-I thought you were joking.
After that, I never paid at the Ranch again. When I had to move back to Boise at
the end of 1979, the December issue of Skateboarder came out with the cover
shot of someone doing a layback grind in the keyhole. And there on the tiles was
a big Del Mar sticker. It was a defining moment for me and my experiences at Del Mar.
I remember you figuring out weird and new tricks and sharing them with other
skaters. What tricks did you come up with back then?
Grant, I remember you had to come out and "patrol" the area at Del Mar. You'd come
up to where I was skating, and I'd be working on some trick, and you'd just go,
"Add that to your book of 1,000 tricks!" Being inventive was really important-I
wasn't into skating to be competitive, it was more of an expression. So I spent
most of my time-especially at Del Mar-creating tricks or helping others learn new
tricks. These were the days when Skateboarder magazine ruled the wasteland-
whatever anyone saw, that seemed to be what was duplicated.
Keep in mind, I was a transplant from Idaho, so most of us were under the impression
that if a trick was photographed and in the magazine, that guy was making it. Perhaps
it was important to create something to get recognized, but once I got to North San
Diego County and learned the secret-that a lot of these tricks were never made,
it made me realize that seeing something like that, regardless of the outcome, pushed
you to a new level.
How did the skate art come about? Was zorlac the first? Was Jeff Newton the
connection to that?
In the 1970s I used to shape my own boards out of ash wood, sand them down,
then I drew on them and used Pelikan inks for color, which would give more of
a stained look. Nobody really had illustrations on boards then, it seemed to be
logos or brand names. The first "big" skate job was painting the saucer logo
on the original Kona pool in Escondido in 1978 for the UFO wheels as with Jeff Tatum.
One of my first actual attempts at board graphics for a "company" was the design I
did for Jay "The Man Cannot Sleep in the Van" Smith when he got sponsored by
Powell-Peralta. The illustration was a skull punk character with an iron cross behind
it in 1980/1981. Powell-Peralta rejected it, saying it wasn't the right image for
their company or something like that. I remember Jay being pissed. Earlier
this year at the Old School Skate Jam 2, I saw Jay and we talked about the graphic.
I was stoked to hear that not only did he remember it, but he still had the original
As for Zorlac, Jeff Newton contacted me in late 1982 or early 1983 to see if I was
interested in what he was doing. Jeff wanted something that was close to home, so
the voodoo concept was the focus. The first thing I did for him was the revamp
the John Gibson board he'd just released. Then I did the shrunken-head graphic
for the double-cut model, which originally had a stake going through the haad.
After that came the Craig Johnson "voodoo doll", the Johnson "flame demon", Metallica
"pirate", and the Pus "gargoyle".
Jeff was getting a lot of flack for doing these types of graphics, especially from
shops in his Bible Belt area, but he really dug it and didn't care what other said.
That was one of the cool things about working with him-he was so underground.
Recently, I did two different design for Adrian Lopez's Zero graphic, which were
a lot of fun to do. Adrian tells me how he hears the stories-you know, moms
freaking out over the graphics. Just like what Newton went through, and it's
fifteen years later. And just like Jeff, Adrian says, "That's cool!"
The Metallica deck?
One day, Jame Hetfield was telling me that when they're on tour, he was bored
and nothing to do before the shows. I suggested skating to him, and he dug the idea.
So I called up Newton and asked if he could send some product for him and Kirk
Hammett. There was this show in 1986 in San Francisco at the Cow Palace, Metallica
opening up for Ozzy Osbourne.
I rode to the event with the band in theor tour bus, and when the band pulled into
the loading bay, James and Kirk just hopped out of the bus and started skating
around like it was a natural thing to do. The workers really ahd no idea these guys
were the band. James was having a blast-total aggro! Since Newton had already put
out a deck for the Big Boys, I suggested the idea of doing a Metallica deck to both
Jeff and James. So for a while, two members of Metallica were really skaters with
a model out.
I got a call on day from Kirk that they wanted to go to the Blood Bowl in Oakland
to skate and for me to come along. So, James, Kirk, Fred [Smith] and I went to this great
empty pool to skate. Now James had previously broken his wrist while skating downhill
on tour, so he was padded up with heavy-duty wrist braces. It was their first time
skating an empty pool-James was really excited and asked me a lot of questions. I
showed him some lines, and soon he was ripping it up-he was hitting tiles and going for coping.
Then it happened. James somehow lost his balance coming down off the transition into
the flat around the drain and fell backward. His wrist snapped and the bone was protruding
out from his heavy-duty wrist brace. That basically ended James' skating career, since it
affected his main career. The first Metallica skateboard design was done in 1986-the "pirate".
It was probably the third illustration I ever did for Metallica, and wqas sort of an offshoot
of the "Damage Inc." T-shirt design.
Which came first, drawing or skating?
Drawing, then skating. Then skating and drawing. Then drawing and skating. Then just drawing.
It's a foundation for a conspiracy.