Alex Corporan for Chapter 63 – New York Skate of Mind
MM: I’m Maximilian Mueller and we’re here with Alex Corporan, legendary New York skater, a guy I’ve done a ton of work with so I’m excited to sit down and delve into your story. Feel like I know a ton of stuff about you but I’m sure there’s a lot of untold stories!
AC: Yeah I mean... I guess it’s up to you to shoot the questions!
MM: So you’re originally
from New York right, born in New York?
AC: Born and raised in New York.
MM: Born and raised in New York!
AC: Washington Heights and then pretty much went to Lower East Side. I was not a fan of Brooklyn at all, not for a long time. Then finally made it over.
MM: Well Brooklyn wasn’t much during the time period anyway right?
AC: No reason to go to Brooklyn, no. Brooklyn was Brooklyn, that’s it’s own entity.
MM: So let’s bring it back to the beginning, before even the Astor Place days, when did you get your first skateboard?
AC: I got a skateboard between 84 and 86. It was a weird thing, my best friend at the time was on a board and I was like “I’m gonna get a board too.” The minute I got the board from Skates On Haight, like the only catalog at the time, from San Francisco, I fell in love with it immediately.
MM: Through a catalog?
AC: Oh yeah. There was also SoHo Skates, but it was super expensive. After I got my first board I knew that was gonna be my life forever.
MM: Do you know what board it was?
AC: It was a Tony Hawk board!
MM: No way! Amazing
AC: Yeah, you know, Tony was beyond Pro back then.
MM: For sure.
AC: Was pretty awesome.
MM: What was early life like? Did your best friend you grew up with keep skating?
AC: I actually got him on Black Label… like during the late 80s but then he didn’t pursue it, I just kept on going. Once we started going to the Banks and all that stuff, with people like Ryan Hickey, Giovanni Estevez, Chris Keith, Mike Hernandez, we just kept moving, like I said I never looked back. If you weren’t trailing with me, you’re kind of gone.
MM: Left in the dust…
AC: Not in a bad way, because even when I first got flown out I would send boxes to my friends, like dude I can do this now, sending stuff was super fun!
MM: Tons of product I’m sure. So when did you meet like HUF or Harold Hunter maybe?
AC: So I grew up with Mike Hernandez, Justin Pierce and Chris Keith in the Bronx. We always met up at my parent’s house, we would just hung out and my parents would feed us and chill out. My parents had no idea what the hell we were gonna do right after that. So we ventured downtown and then, you know go to The Banks, since it was the hub of where you met everyone. So it was pretty cool because like now, it’s like HUF and Keenan from Harlem. We all just got together... The friendship and how everything happened, you can’t even repeat it in live. It’s kind of crazy.
MM: For sure, I can’t imagine.
AC: I see a lot of brands that try to emulate thatand just try to like be what we’ve done but thing is, it was so pure back then, like you know, with all the movement that was going on in New York like after the Studio 54 days, it was like punk rock, skateboarding, disco, all that stuff. Started growing and some weird other wave. So it was definitely a different time.
MM: Oh for sure. Probably the time to be alive here in NY! And well make it out alive too.
AC: Yeah make it out alive ha.
MM: Which is what I hear from a lot of these talks.
AC: It’s like, I couldn’t predict what we did back then to what’s going on now. Like I would be like, “Yeah man we’re gonna be like this” it’s like we’re just doing it, there’s no other way that it could happen like when we went from the movie KIDS, to SHUT being the first skateboard company, to Supreme to Zoo York, all those elements of what we created was unpredictable. Could not create that anymore, that was like so virgin off the top. You know?
MM: For sure, so what was before ... I mean talking about all those brands, what was before Supreme for you, like were you sponsored by anyone yet or working at any local shops?
AC: I was sponsored, yeah... My first sponsor was in like 87 by Job Skateboards in New Jersey, then by another skate company called Poverty. Then I sort of skated for Jab Skateboards, they flew me out there. So Poverty was insane effectively as Jab Skateboards, so I was in San Diego and met up with John Reeves and Sal Barbier, skating for Hamels Skate Shop and like doing all that stuff. Back in the day.
MM: Did you move there?
AC: I had to move there for a bit so I was back and forth, I pretty much had a place there.
MM: That’s awesome. I mean Sal!
AC: There we played ... Before it was like SKATE, It was like skate, done.
MM: Land a trick or not. Before a lot of tricks probably existed too.
AC: Super fun man, that’s our first experience
of being in San Diego was like, I get there and we’re in front of Hamels Skate Shop and this guy cruising the green garbage cans, he’s like, pow blasts out.
I was like, oh shit, this I was like, oh man, this is where I’m right now. It’s just funny because back then you never thought they’d be looking at you the way we looked at them because like, also in the East Cost there wasn’t that much footage that was put out. It was rare. I was one of the few filmers before like RB came into the scene I was the one filming everyone. I was the one like, filming Gino, filming. Keenan, everybody.
MM: Some of the filmers that became-
AC: Yeah, that old time. Like I was the dude doing that.
MM: Wow, did you put any videos together back then?
AC: Yeah, I put the all the old videos together. There’s a lot of fun stuff out there.
MM: So before Supreme, we’ll get into that, were ABC Skate Shop and SkateNYC around? Or is that after?
AC: That was little after.
MM: Okay, so let’s go to the Supreme days when you’re working at there and doing your thing. You had been skating for them right?
AC: I was part of the Supreme crew from day one because like how I figured out about Supreme was because of Chappy. Chappy was working, the word was getting out, there was a new skate shop coming out. SoHo Skates had just shut down, OD’s just
shut down. Skate NYC just shut down so there was nothing left. And that was Southern California going to the ASR Trade Show at the time. And we just ... I bumped into Chappy, said “Yo, when you coming back to New York? Like we need to hang out, you need to work for us?” I’m like, “Work for what?” He’s like “Dude, starting a skateboard shop on Lafayette Street.” I was like “No fucking way that’s awesome let’s do it.” I was like “I should be in New York within the next six months.” And then I worked there from the very, very beginning. I was there, part of the crew. Once I came back I was like in the shop, I was like, oh, bright eyed. I’m like, yeah this is it. Then it was all about the line up, was just amazing because it’s just the whole crew. And then by 96 I had started actually working for the company and then worked there till 2004.
MM: That’s a very long stretch.
AC: Started that madness, there was no lines, there was no Thursdays. There was no like “drop” It would be like you and I being at the shop and like …
MM: Just hanging.
AC: Yeah exactly.
MM: Like any skate shop.
AC: Yeah. We had more like a Japanese clients, especially back then. So it was very different from what it is now. So what we created was on a whole different angle what you see.
MM: Yeah, it was all from Japanese culture essentially.
MM: Like the streetwear movement.
AC: I respect ... Can’t ignore those guys, that’s from Japan. So much respect man, those guys believed in us, James believed in them. We just took over the world, that’s it, where Supreme’s at now. I’m very happy to be part of the family you know. I never left on bad terms, I just needed to move on in my life.
So that was the best thing that I did for myself.
MM: So that was 94 to like 2004?
MM: Or like 96 to 2004?
AC: Yeah, when I actually worked there.
MM: So when did Etnies come about? Was that after, was there something between?
AC: So no, what happened was I was ready to move on and then Pierre André took an interest in me and said “Hey Alex, you want to work for us?
How do you feel?” Because you know for a second I was pigeon holed for that last year. Because everyone is like, oh we can’t take the guy from Supreme. Like there’s no way. And then I was like no, I’m down to do it you know. I’m ready to move on, it’s like I don’t own the company. I’m part of the family for life so I’m a Supreme lifer but I was like, let’s do it. And then I became the Marketing Manager at Etnies and they gave me a four story mansion to myself. On 29 Green Street where I did all the events for all the brands, I ended up doing Etnies but then I also ended up doing like Etnies, Emerica, and Altamont that had just came out. So I started doing all the brands now. So I’m now like I was part of the whole thing.
MM: That was under a distribution at that time?
AC: It was under Sole Tech.
MM: Oh Sole Tech, right!
AC: Sole Tech is the umbrella.
MM: I forgot Etnies was under… That makes sense actually. And ÉS too right?
MM: So on the whole, Sole Tech.
AC: But ÉS was actually crashing at that point too, so the re-launch is happening a couple of years ago.
MM: Like Don Brown era?
AC: Yeah, Don. Don the man. Love him.
MM: Shout out to Don Brown!
AC: Yeah, Don Brown number one. Love him.
MM: How many years were you with Etnies? That’s actually how I remember how I was introduced to you… we’ll go into that later but it’s like how I knew you by, I was like oh you used to work at Etnies.
AC: Yeah. So I had the showroom, I worked there for like seven, eight years. And back and forth California traveling a lot too. But it was so much fun, that was definitely one of the most fun companies I’ve been under, with Sole Tech. Amazing, Pierre, Don Brown, like Ashley Maxfield, Brian Jones. These guys I’ve spent my life with them, being on the planes, hotels. Like seeing things just go down where you’re like “Oh how are we a corporate company getting away with this.” You know?
MM: I think that was that era though in skateboarding.
AC: It was, that was the beauty of that time in skateboarding, but we can’t ... Another time, they almost can’t repeat it again. You know now things are way more serious and there’s the Olympics coming up. So you know the belt needed to be tightened and that’s it.
AC: But you know those fun years were fun years. It’s like I would never say like I wish, it’d be like,
we did it.
MM: Did it.
MM: So that was kind of like a high time, was there anything after Etnies ... did you kind of leave for anything else or were you kind of like done?
AC: No, the company had a financial, like during the financial crash.
AC: This is like 2011, 12.
MM: Oh Okay.
AC: It was like the financial crash in just the whole world itself and skateboarding. And you know, the building. You went from like all these buildings to trying to come into one.
MM: Yeah, no more mansion... now you just have one little room probably.
AC: Yep. So now you know, just moved on and I just started freelancing for myself and joined the freelancing world and started doing stuff like for Levis and GoPro. And a whole bunch of other companies, it was amazing. I’m still doing it.
MM: Yeah, I mean you’re always up to different things.
AC: I’m always up to something you know. Adidas is by my side. Thank you Josh, you know always. That’s what’s happening man.
MM: Awesome, so to bring up “Skate Night” and that’s how we really got into working with each other a lot. So throughout the years, and I’d say we probably met like, I don’t know like probably over seven years ago... I mean like I said, I had a next door neighbor, that girl Nina… I had just moved to New York City in 2011 and she was like “Oh I know this guy, Alex Corporan, works at Etnies and at least she thought you still did. And I guess that was the same time, 2011.
AC: Yeah, same time. Yeah.
MM: So it was crazy that I was like, I just remembered meeting you at Side Show, something like 2012. So actually good amount of time I guess. I was just trying to get into the industry and all that.
AC: Yeah, I started skating just like, same thing, what could be fun for a skateboarder to do like after skateboarding? It’s like I already have the connections with all the brands all over, so it’s like, well let me get sponsors and pick a bar and do something fun to earn product. I wish when I was a kid, I’d be amazed!
AC: You have to be over 21, yeah just putting it out there. Over 21. It was just great, I’ve been doing it f
or almost six years now coming up to January and it’s been amazing, you know with Max Fish. It started
at Epstein’s and then LeftField.
MM: Left Field days, that was good.
AC: You know it’s great to have such support and
I support the youth and I want people to feel comfortable about what they need and how I can provide them. Because like New York is still missing a giant element of a unity, like we’re united but like there’s no big umbrella like the way it is in like SF. Like with the lux.
MM: Sure. It’s a house though.
AC: The lux has a house for everyone. And like what I’m trying to do is to build that house and hopefully by next year I can accomplish that and really like, have everyone in one room at like a round table and be like, alright we’re doing this and this is how we’re doing it. You’re different, you’re different, you’re different but we’re a crew. Let’s make this unity now. We have all the artists, you have all the videographers. Have all the filmers and we have everyone. We have all the talent ... like how are we working separate? Then SF has like these giant bulldogs.
AC: Yeah, the machines. Out of control.
MM: Well it’s interesting you say that because like for me I actually do see ... and you are the person that has established this, I mean at least with my experience of living here for the last like seven and a half years or so and meeting you like very soon into moving into New York, I say we do have that. Like we may not have like a go to ... like LeftField now, that was a go to spot, that all the old and young would like go and hang out. But that house is like when the Skate Night happens. Like being all together, SF may have that but in New York, there’s no other city that I know that you have all the different ages of skaters... The older guys really motivate and support the younger guys.
AC: Yeah, of course.
MM: And that’s a big thing.
AC: I just want everyone to have a great time.
MM: Right on!
AC: That’s it, it’s like, in the 80s when skateboarding wasn’t cool, man. That was hard to grow up, that was hard to come out of like as a Dominican kid from Washington Heights with like all white friends and ... All of like, we’re like this unit and everyone’s like “Who the fuck is this mixed bag of people?” You know like, what the hell is going on here? And to get out of that, in the 80s, that was hard. We paved the way to make sure that everyone’s having a great time. And now I’m glad that I was able and still to accomplish that and make sure that everyone’s gonna always feel comfortable in New York to do whatever they need to do.
MM: Because you guys didn’t have like, an older generation before you. Like all those guys would have been in California so you didn’t have that here in New York.
MM: Supporting you and telling you like what to do.
AC: Exactly, man. You know we had the main support from Cali, like shout out to Shrewgy and Greg Carol… Those guys believed in us, believed in Peter Bici, believed in me, believed in HUF, Ron Allen, another one.
MM: Jefferson Pang too?
AC: Pang’s family, you know but like we’re talking about the West Coast guys.
MM: Right right.
AC: When they took us in, that was like... That was rad. And if it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be a lot of us over here you know.
MM: So there was SHUT at this time too right?
AC: SHUT disappeared by 1989 so that was done. Alyasha, Bruno, Rodney Smith.
AC: Eli. So that was a thing but then everyone kind of separated so that’s where it got dark for a second. And all of us just went to Cali, we were like alright.
MM: How did SHUT come back, it’s so interesting to hear… because even now they don’t have a shop again, they’ve had such a heavy impact on New York. They went away for 89 and they came back on Orchard…
MM: For like... They came back like early 2000s again?
AC: Yeah early 2000s.
MM: For another run of like, maybe 15.
AC: And it was great. It’s fantastic, SHUT is always gonna be stamped as the first skate company in New York so that’s ...
MM: And that was a home for like the old and young skaters at the time too.
AC: For all of us, yeah. Going on Orchard was fantastic, sitting then, Michael Cohen, like all these Brooklyn people like hey, let’s hang out, let’s sit down. And it’ll be like puppet head and it’ll be like myself and then it’ll be like all these other people together, like when Lewis got on. It’s great seeing like all the faces together, once again that’s like the New York unity but like once again, I want that back. We need a hub, with Etnies show room, that was my hub for everyone because of circumstances in the financial world.
AC: You know, a thing like that. You know I’m trying to bring it back, trying to really keep everyone united and skate night is something that’s been helping me out, keep everyone together and really like, we’re brothers and sisters. Let’s have fun, that’s like don’t stop like this girl power and this and that. No man, that’s have Witch Slap perform. Just show girls can come to Skate Nights, it’s not a fucking like bro fest. It’s us, as skateboarders united!
MM: Yeah. And that’s been like very apparent that everyone feels like very comfortable ... I love like when Witch Slap performs because that really brings that energy.
MM: So what you think, so that’s your plan to maybe have like open a shop? You said a round table… is this like some kind of brand?
AC: Some master plan, something that’s in my head.
MM: So something special, we’ll have to wait and see.
AC: Trying to figure something out before 2020, for the Olympics.
MM: Very true.
AC: Because I want to really unite everyone because we have to, there’s gonna be a big change in skateboarding within the next year.
MM: For sure, and then even after the 2020 because I mean I’m sure money is just gonna be poured into the industry.
MM: In many different outlets, it’ll be interesting to see like what companies come up, what companies disappear and all that.
AC: Yeah. It’s crazy, I’m trying to put out my ten year anniversary of my book.
MM: Full Bleed?
AC: Full Bleed!
AC: So working on that too, trying to pull it off by 2020. Came out 2010, that was another great accomplishment that I had that I was like even to pull off a book and for it to sell out ... because of Vice publications, they backed me. Yeah, just trying to just keep everyone happy. Like make sure there is something that you can always do.
MM: Right. And feeding the energy into.
MM: So I thought that was like Rizzoli books? It was actually made by Vice?
AC: No. Rizzoli was actually number two on the list though.
MM: Oh that’s so funny.
AC: We went to Vice first. It was like, Vice or Rizzoli. We had meetings and like first one was Vice and we sat there, we already had 19 versions of the book. Like seriously laid out, me and Andre and ... And Ivory would sit down every day at Spike TV.
MM: She was at Spike?
AC: Yeah because like my favorite restaurant MeKong , was like right there on King Street and Andre worked two blocks down at Spike TV so like our meetings would be over there and we’d go up there and be like, let’s lay out this book and get all these photographers and god, you know it’s like we got so many versions of this, what are we gonna do? And then we had that meeting at Vice and it was like, alright-
MM: Pitched it to them?
AC: Pitched it to them, they were like, wow, looks like you guys already did the book. I’m like “Oh shit, we’re not even done yet.” It’s like ah man.
MM: So now you have room for the new ... You’re saying you have a lot more like, collateral, that you can do for this one?
AC: Oh yeah. Now it’s like gonna for full blown with the next one.
MM: Full blown Full Bleed.
AC: Full blown full bleed, it’s gonna be awesome. Everyone’s gonna be so excited, they can’t wait to bring in like all the younger photographers that didn’t make it in the back and some of the older guys that didn’t make it. Because like, when I said I was gonna do the book …
MM: Some people didn’t jump on board?
AC: A lot of people were kind of like, eh, I don’t know if you can do this. Or, can you pull it off? I was like, watch.
MM: And you did it!
AC: And I did and when I did it everyone was like-
MM: Yeah we missed out?
AC: That’s kind of fucked up. Now it’s like, I told you. I told you I’m doing this you know. You know, 308 pages, hard cover. We did a book tour.
MM: That’s huge I mean there’s not a lot of skate books in the industry honestly.
AC: No there isn’t.
MM: And there was like Flip The Script which is very interesting. But that’s like more in the graffiti world... There’s the Skate Bible by Sean Cliver!
AC: Yeah, thing it’s like ... But, my whole thing with Full Bleed was like I was already ahead with the internet and how people are like with their short attention spans so I was like you know what, I’m gonna make a book, just photos. Don’t make it chronological, just here, here, see what each page is like, wow. That’s a 1970 photo and then this is a 1990 one then the next one you’re like, wait, that’s a 1980 and then there’s like a 2008. You know so it’s like, just wanted to make people understand what Full Bleed was about, explain that New York is our skate park.
AC: Like that’s what it is, we didn’t have a skate park back then. This is what we have.
MM: Just curbs, ledges…
AC: Curbs, banks, ledges. Like South Street Sea Port being here I’m like, I got a little teary eyed, I was like I remember skating here every time. Good memories.
MM: So what else was down here, I think of The Banks, I think of the Astor Cube. What spots do you guys like to skate? I mean the Banks are pretty close to here actually. What spots do you like to skate down here?
AC: Down here? Yeah, I mean back in the day was the Banks only. And Sea Port.
MM: So I guess that made you... Brought everyone down here, like when everyone cultivated down here essentially.
AC: Pretty much yeah.
MM: Awesome. What else, besides Full Bleed, what else is in the future? I know you’re always up to something.. You said Kings Street or KING?
AC: KING, my friend Matt from London, I’ve always like I’ve been representing for the past two years like, I love the stuff.
MM: Yeah, and then The Standard.
AC: The New Standard this year!
MM: New Standard…
AC: That’s my friend Evan Josloff, He’s just such a rad person, makes amazing jeans and I’ve been like his fit model for a long time. I think I have every single pair of the jeans. I actually am wearing a pair.
MM: Oh amazing.
AC: It’s so funny because that’s all I wear I’m like, “You know, Ev, that’s all I wear.” You know?
MM: Like nice pants I mean.
AC: Yeah very nice.
MM: Who wouldn’t want a nice pants sponsor?
AC: Come on.
MM: Always looking fresh. Because that’s also the times, like skaters used to be like baggy stuff and then it became like, I feel like when Dylan Rieder came on to the scene.
AC: More form fitting.
MM: Yeah, Dylan Rieder with the leather dress shoe era is when people really started to get like, oh I’m gonna look like dapper, like Jim Greco kind of style even.
AC: You know, we went from diving in derelict to like hey, let’s look good. We’re good looking guys, with good looking girls like feel good about what you’re wearing, while you’re skating in it.
MM: Yeah. Right from skating get to like a nice bar.
AC: Exactly. Back then it’s like you have to carry your nice clothes in the book bag before you go to the club and now it’s like, now you just skate all day and you’re like might smell a little bit but getting in, looking good.
MM: So there’s Full Bleed and we got Skate Night as always on the horizon. Is there anything else brewing?
AC: I’m always driven by skateboarding. Hopefully I’ll start the skate company I always wanted to do.
AC: If that happens you’ll know about it right away. You’ll probably be one of my artists, like hey, here you go design this. But yeah ... Every day is different for me, I always wake up like “You know what, I should do this and do that.” Like I’m always thinking. I’m like a 24 hour person, like never sleeping and I’m always awake, somethings always popping into my head, like ready to launch something.
MM: Yeah, early bird night owl.
MM: Same here.
AC: People here and then be like, hey you want to do this? Let’s do that.
MM: That’s awesome. We’ll keep the name low key but I’m sure we’ll all know when it comes out, because I’m always stoked to see like, you know Findaways just came out. I’m always stoked to see the small brands coming out still.
AC: It’s good man, I support that. That’s bringing the family together, like let’s keep the show together.
MM: Because the industry might be flooded but there’s still like, if it’s here, man I’m definitely gonna support the local, small.
AC: Exactly, yes.
MM: Awesome, well that’s whatsup, you always have something brewed up with the Skate Night and everything you do, so I’m just stoked for everything that I’ve gotten to be a part of with you!
AC: Thank you, I deeply appreciate it. I love that you’re always with me, and I love seeing you grow actually. I went from seeing you like do this … to doing this!
MM: You saw it all!
AC: To that and I’m like, what he’s doing now, yes Max! That’s the way to go!
MM: Awesome man, it’s been great!