Austyn Gillette interview Austyn Gillette interview

After having a conversation with Austyn I was surprised by how quiet he is, now some might perceive this as arrogance but this isn’t the case what so ever. Austyn is humble and unlike most people within skateboarding, actually seems to consider what he’s about to say before doing so. Due to the people he’s associated with, it would be easy to assume that Austyn as is fashion-focused as his ‘Team Handsome’ cohorts Dylan Rieder and Alex Olson but again, contrary to what you might expect, this isn’t the case at all - no portfolio and headshots for this guy, (though he’s partial to suiting up if the situation calls for it…)
It’s safe to say the last couple of years have been busy ones for him. Departing his long time board and shoe sponsor Habitat in 2013, Austyn joined Brian Anderson for the upstart 3D Skateboards and then, along with Dylan, became one of the newest members of Keith Hufnagel’s eponymous shoe company. Though initially a surprise, after a few HUF tour videos surfaced it became clear that the nonchalant buddies were a perfect fit for the company with it only seeming a short matter of time until both were given a pro model shoe. However, it’s no secret Austyn has dropped off the radar over the last twelve months. That’s not to say he still hasn’t been busy as he’s spent the majority of this time recovering from double knee surgery, although this hasn’t stopped him making fun of the situation via the occasional Instagram post... Just back on the board, we caught up with Austyn a couple of months ago to talk 3D Skateboards, life after Habitat, fashion’s influx into skateboarding along with his much debated debut model for HUF which is hitting skate shop shelves today.

You’ve been out of action for a while after going through some intense knee injuries; could you clear up what happened there?
My meniscus in both legs were torn so I had them repaired in September. Then recovered for six months, started skating again and tore a different part of my meniscus in my right knee. So I had surgery on that two months ago and I’m back slightly rolling around now. So yeah, I haven’t done much since July last year. I was sort of feeling it like a year and a half ago and kind of just pushed through it. Or longer than that, fuck, no – two years ago I started feeling it. I pushed through it and then it got to a point where everyday activities, I would feel it. Just walking or going up stairs. That’s when I decided to get an MRI and get it checked out and see what’s going on. Luckily it wasn’t anything else but it’s definitely been a wet towel of a situation.

What have you been occupying yourself with whilst you haven’t been able to skate?
A little music. It’s mainly just been physical therapy a few times a week, slumming a tiny bit on the side, living life… It’s not that bad, as weird as it sounds, it sounds pretty bad but it’s kind of like how not having a job feels. Feeling like you’re unemployed, but not unemployed. You’re getting paid to recover, that’s what it’s been like.

When you can skate properly again are you going to be working on anything?
Yeah we’re gonna be working on a 3D promo. That’s the plan, just film some stuff for 3D, put the focus more back into that side of things. Just because I’ve been doing a lot of stuff for HUF for the past two years which has taken up a lot of my time, footage and photos and things that I haven’t been able to give to 3D. So I guess putting more focus on that and kind of developing an actual brand. Thinking maybe start in July/August depending on how things go and travel a little bit with those guys depending on what Brian’s schedule is like. Either way, I am going to get to filming. Yeah and get out of L.A. because I don’t film here, I just live here…

Have you been in touch with Brian (Anderson) much while you’ve been injured? What’s it like having B.A. as a boss?
Yeah I talk to him a few times a month. Not too much but, we chat, we catch up, it’s not like we’re on an email basis. We talk on the phone, y’know, we’re buddies. He runs everything through us. He’s really good at that. I wouldn’t say, I don’t know, we’re friends so the boss side of things… it is funny saying ‘he’s my boss’ and he’s a great boss but it’s not really like that. If he has any ideas or we have any input it’s put on pretty lightly, or the delivery isn’t like a boss so it doesn’t feel like that.

No business meetings stuck in a board room then?
I wouldn’t say ‘meetings’ and Brian and I…that shouldn’t even be in the same sentence. It’s more just hanging out, kind of just shooting shit and whatever.

After Alex left in the early days of 3D it seems that Brian has taken his time with deciding who else got on the team, like it’s been a slow and natural process. Did you know Tom Karangelov well before he got on?
I liked his skating but I didn’t know him too well. I knew he rode for Zero and my buddy Ryan Allan kind of made that happen. He sent me his footage and then, I guess over time he didn’t like that situation he was in, he was trying to change things up.

The summer you made the move from Habitat to 3D must have been a pretty hectic, leaving both your board and shoe sponsor at the same time. I remember seeing you wearing other shoes but still riding Habitat boards so was your decision originally just to leave the footwear program?
Yeah, kind of…they were juggling the company. DNA, Alien Workshop, Habitat and Habitat shoes, they were juggling between different owners and people buying out the company and transferring it, it kind of just got a little sticky financially. Joe (Castrucci), my contract was up, and he was telling me that I should probably look into going somewhere else because I could probably make a living…a better living somewhere else and I could get more out of it and he kind of saw that coming to a halt. But without really saying it, he just kind of hinted towards that. It was more friendly, it wasn’t anything just like I quit, he was just like ‘hey, you should consider going somewhere else before this goes to shit’ – which ended up happening, sadly. Which sucks just because I like Joe and those guys and everything they do, it was extremely hard as they were my peers growing up into skateboarding and actually having a company and a home.

Best memory from the Habitat days?
Shit, we just travelled so much I got to see the world with them. I got around with them at an early age and being able to kind of grow with them I guess was something that always comes back. They became good friends of mine and we’re all still really good friends and talk a lot. No real memory, just travelling with those guys was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. They just whipped me into shape. Just preparing you for actual, you know – life. Not like what most skateboarders think.

Back then, the behind the scenes side of things at DNA (Distribution) were in a difficult phase which saw Alien close down the following summer. Were you always very aware of how turbulent things were or was it kind of pushed to one side, everything with Dyrdek and Pacific Vector…
Yeah you could sense it. You could sense that it was turbulent, I like that word. It was definitely that, it was just not knowing who actually owns the company and where it’s going and are we going to be able to travel again? Are we going to be a board company? Is Alien going to go to a different distribution or is it going to split up? I didn’t leave it because of that. Because I was aware of those changes, that didn’t really affect my decision. It wasn’t like ‘oh this ship is sinking, I’m gonna leave, gonna get out while I still can’. I wasn’t like that at all. That had nothing to do with me choosing to ride for 3D.

With that in mind, it can’t have been easy just seeing it close down overnight. How did you and Dill end up with brief cameos in the ‘Moving Right Along’ video when it came back under Tum Yeto?
Yeah, well luckily it’s doing well now. Joe wanted Dill to be in it, I think he did something with Daryl (Angel)… Then Joe wanted me to be hitchhiking and them kind of just passing me by. Joe just wanted it for humour’s sake. Obviously we’re still all friends and what not where we can do shit like that where…you know Dill started FA then I went to 3D… Kind of like a diss, but a friendly diss. Joe asked me to film that clip and I was actually on a HUF trip and he was like “hey can we get this, here’s the idea” and I obviously love that shit, just like poking fun at that. Just a little friendly fire.

That's it, i'm off...

Do you think it’s strange that Habitat was able to continue like nothing really happened but the opinions about Alien’s return are fairly divided?
I think if any of the companies were to keep it going; Habitat’s always been smooth sailing. It never got to any point where there was any hierarchy or anybody above running the ship like Dill or AVE was. It wasn’t like that at Habitat, everybody loved Joe. It’s a different company; I don’t think it’s weird at all. I kind of saw it, if any of the companies where to do it, Habitat would stay around.

How come it was HUF that attracted you guys so much? There was a lot of rumours about the bigger brands trying to scoop you guys up.
Well Cons had no plans to do anything with me and they weren’t really able to offer me anything at the time. I felt like there wasn’t… this was mainly the thing. There wasn’t any opportunity other than ‘oh, here’s money’. That was their motivation, like ‘this is how we’re gonna lure you in’ – a bit of dough. There’s no opportunity in that, what do you work for at that point? You’ve already got the dough.

‘Is it/isn’t it going to happen’ sort of scenario?
Yeah, just bullshit like that and I didn’t like that. Then, I ended up talking to Huf because we’ve been friends over the years and I knew him from San Francisco and I met up with him, we had lunch. I told him my situation, I told him Dylan’s situation and said that I’d probably be able to get Dylan on the team and we both wanted to ride for the same team so I asked him if he was interested and that’s how it came about as far as that. You could trust a guy like that when you talk to him. You’re not weary or hesitant of his promises or anything that he has to offer you. You know it’s honest and genuine.

I think a lot of people were surprised at the move at first but now it just makes sense. It’s a really good fit.
That’s how it goes with anything; it takes someone to kind of remould it. Whatever it is, we saw something in Huf and he saw something in us and it kind of just transformed into what it is now. People like wearing the Sutters now…

Funny you should say that, I’m wearing them right now…
Yeah, no one gave a fuck about those until the whole team started riding them and we started skating them… You saw through that shoe that like ‘oh shit, this is actually working’. Holy shit, you see kids wearing the Sutter, which is a shoe Huf predicted would just drop at the end of the season. That it wouldn’t last. We see the whole team wearing them and the news guys wearing them and that shoe ended up being their best selling shoe, which is weird. But that’s cool to see those results, to see it that way. We were skating the samples but when we first got on there, there weren’t too many that I could personally skate. Then they happened to have the Sutter sitting around ready for production and they were able to get us the samples, then it launched – it just happened to be good timing that they had a simple, narrow shoe.

Before that, were any plans for you to make the move over to gravis?
We were working on a contract. Setting up a contract and then it just…they [Burton] canned it, weird timing…

I’ve got to ask, ‘New York La La La’, how did you, Jerry Hsu and Josh Harmony get involved with that?
That was actually a favour to a friend of ours that worked for a magazine; it wasn’t a music video… It was some fucking dumb ass fashion shoot thing and they needed skaters. I wasn’t even supposed to be in it, I don’t even think us three were supposed to be in it but a few guys dropped out and they were like ‘hey we need some people.’ I was a friend of the guy that did it and his wife and we kind of went into it blind. We knew it’d be kind of weird… I don’t know, it was a favour; we didn’t even get paid for it. It was more like, ‘hey do you want to do this? It could be cool…’

Did you at least get to keep the suit?
Fuck no!

That blows.
Those things were fucking too expensive!

Did they freak out if you slammed in them?
No they were actually cool about it, they didn’t really care. Which is weird and why I was wondering ‘do I get to keep this at the end…?’ (Laughs) I could sell this and pay for shit. Yeah it was definitely weird but, I don’t know, that shit’s gonna pop up.

There is a lot more fashion influence and focus in skating now though. You skate with and used to be on 3D and Quiksilver with Alex Olson. What do you think to what he’s doing inside and outside of skating right now? It’s pretty crazy that Bianca Chandon is in Dover Street Market of all stores…
Alex is a friend of mine, whatever he’s excited about, he’s going to do. Whatever he doesn’t like he makes that known so he got to finally do his own company. The way that he is and the people that he knows; that stuff, those stores, those people – he’s gonna inevitably get sucked into that world and people are going to be interested. So I guess that’s cool. Skateboarding fucking sucks as far as introducing anything new. So, for him to do that, I think it’s awesome.

Would you ever take on a modelling job like Dylan and Alex have, given the chance?
I don’t give a shit, if someone wants to do it then… It’s not like something I’m going to pursue; I don’t have a fucking resume or a portfolio or a look book – any of that shit.

I think Nordberg does…
Yeah, a lot of those guys do. I mean fuck it, I don’t see why not. If you could make some dough off of that who’s some fucking dumbass to say ‘oh you’re not keeping it real’. Like, what does that even fucking mean anymore? What does ‘keeping it real’ mean? Guys are wearing fucking nine hundred dollar fucking Supreme hats and whatever, just that garbage. Where it’s like ‘keeping it real’ and then these guys are wearing fucking watches out skating and their fucking dumbass one-off shoes.

I wouldn’t really view it as those guys ‘selling out’, when it’s a job outside of skateboarding but most people would disagree. Then there are guys with energy drink and Toyota endorsements or whatever actually tied to their skateboarding, but it gets brushed over as it’s almost become normal.
That stuff is even more ridiculous to me. It also doesn’t have anything to do with skateboarding. But somehow that world penetrated skateboarding and people have adjusted to it and accepted it. So I think it’s just a matter of time before people start accepting skaters doing things outside of skating and if you’re given that opportunity I don’t see why you would ever pass that up to get paid fucking ten thousand dollars a day to just sit around. All those guys that get those opportunities to do… Like I don’t even know what Nordberg does, I don’t even fucking know the guy anymore! Used to be friends and then he turned, uhh…

Cool guy’d it?
He’s definitely not too cool, at all.

(laughs) Maybe thinks he is then?
He’s not cool. That’s the problem… It’s just interesting, but once again, that stuff takes over too. You get just as addicted to that world just as much as you get addicted to skating, it’s fucking weird. You can’t let it take over. He’s a good example of letting that world take over you and I’m sure a lot of you guys from the UK agree. The direction he’s taken… He’s not really a skater though, he’s not a skater.

(laughs, a lot)

No, not like, not even a diss! Just… I mean we’re ‘friends’, I don’t know him too much he’s definitely changed, really quickly.

It is funny. From tie die t-shirts to the catwalk.
Yeah so I mean that’s just letting it take over, I think if you do it moderately, you can pull it off with anything, and tastefully.

What’s your view on that to the mainstream media and especially advertising, the fact that skateboarding is basically ‘cool’ now to the world at large?
Am I surprised that it is? Not really, no. I mean, that’s always been like, things like surfing and skating are kind of mainstream. People outside of skating and surfing have always been attracted to it just because it is a trendsetter, you know for the sports side of things? It’s considered cool and it’s always been considered kind of cool. As much as the lame things I would think that are going on with skaters or skateboarding in general; I mean you can’t really change that, it depends. You just gotta go choose the right path and not let it affect you. It doesn’t really affect me. It only affects the people that want to be affected by it. Like, you don’t want to change? That’s fucking life.

So your pro shoe for HUF is coming out this summer. Why did you choose to go for the dress shoe look with it? Skate footwear has taken influence from other sources; like soccer and basketball and now even dress shoes are not just coming in for fashion’s sake, but they’re functional too with shoes like Dylan’s pro models, and I’m sure yours, being perfect examples.
That’s what I wear when I’m not skating, so I kind of wanted to meet half way. To make a shoe that you could skate in and wear. That’s always been a battle for me and luckily this time I was able to make it happen. Huf was open to anything so he got a shoe that I’m going to wear and that I wear every day, skating or not skating. I definitely got a soccer vibe out of his shoe for sure. It’s definitely a soccer and fashion kind of hybrid. But yeah, that’s what I’m into now, that could change completely in five years and I could go back to a ‘traditional’ style skate shoe or whatever. I guess just trying something new.

So straight away, did you know you wanted to do something completely different to your last pro shoe on Habitat Footwear? Why go cupsole over vulcanised this time around?
Yeah that was definitely the goal. There were a lot of influences as far as the shape of the shoe that were from outside of skating and then we put a cupsole on it and a little bit of a heel on it that doesn’t really affect anything. I guess I kind of started jumping down stairs over the past few years and that kind of caught up to me, obviously (laughs). Yeah it caught up to me and I realised ‘hey I might want to hop on this cupsole thing…’ and a lot of people that wear them don’t have complaints. Less complaints, more people wearing it. The good thing about the tread on the bottom of the shoe, the way that they designed it – whenever you pick up the shoe, try to bend it, it’s very flexible. That was really important too, just immediately the shoe being flexible, you don’t have to break it in. It doesn’t feel anything like a cupsole in anyway, there’s zero stiffness to it.

Simple sole, one piece toe cap, as far as other HUF models go it kind of looks like a dressier take on the Sutter.
Yeah, kind of, that’s what it was based off. No toe bumpers or heel bumpers or anything like that. Just really straightforward like the Sutter is, it’s like a shoe you can’t get mad at that’s pretty pleasing to the eye no matter who it is.

Your shoe has a heel on it and has got a lot of people talking. Why did you choose to implement that to it?
That’s why.
That’s fucking exactly why. Like, if you look at a Samba or a traditional like soccer shoe. If you look at the heel to toe ratio they’re more drastic than my shoe, like if you put it flat on the ground, my shoe lays flat. There’s no gap in between the shoe like you would feel in a regular dress shoe. You don’t feel anything but it definitely pops, just trying something new in skating. It’s not like ‘oh this shoe with a big heel’ like a fucking Clarks or an Oxford shoe, it’s not like that. It’s not that drastic but I feel like it’s just enough to have people not like ‘that’s different I’m going to try that, I’m going to see what that does for me.’ No one has done it in skating so I’m excited to be the first to try it and I’m sure Huf is as well. Buddies of mine skate it and I’ve been passing it around and no complaints. They like it. So we’ll see how it goes over with the majority.

With you being injured for the past year, what can we expect in terms of a promo or video part for your shoe?
I have a part coming out in early July from my footage that we’ve gathered since I’ve been on HUF and there’s a little commercial that we’re trying to figure out how to do.

Are you going to go for a standard video part or broody black and white like Dylan did?
No, I don’t think they’ll be any naked chicks in my video. At all. But, maybe Walter will make the cut.

Were you stoked to give Walter a pro board for 3D?
I didn’t actually make that choice but yeah. I’m psyched that he had it, has two now. (Laughs)

Who do you think should be next in line for pro model with HUF? Brad Cromer is killing it right now.
I love Cromer, yeah definitely one of my faves as well. I’d say so…

Finally, are there any plans for full length HUF video sometime in the near future?
No clue, no talks of it. There are a lot of those guys filming video parts now so basically the whole team is really busy. But maybe after the summer is over and things slow down after a few trips. That would be pretty cool, I hope that those things don’t die and they’re obviously not. I’d like to do it. I feel that it’s lost, I mean I’m filming a part by myself, for the shoe and that’s kind of what things have turned into. That way works as well, I feel just as long as the video part’s good it’s just as effective. Just the attention span of people nowadays, it’s just catering to that.

That’s it Austyn, thanks for your time. Any thanks or anything you’d like to end this on?
The UK? I don’t know… (laughs)

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