Brian Anderson Interview | Sidewalk Basics

Standing over six feet tall and covered in tattoos, Brian Anderson is an example of how skateboarders can be so easily misunderstood – as he is one of the nicest dudes to ever step on a board.

He is also one of the most recognisable names within skateboarding culture. He’s ridden with Ed Templeton and Jamie Thomas on Toy Machine, Koston and Carrol on Girl and had amazing parts in ‘Welcome to Hell’, ‘Jump Off a Building’ and ‘Yeah Right’.

Recently, Brian started up his own company and is one of the few skateboards to have a shoe with Nike SB. With such an esteemed career behind him and his future endeavours looking promising, Brian is an inspiration for generations of skateboarders both past and present.

From Sidewalk Basics – Autumn 2013

Interview: Farran Golding

How long have you been skateboarding for and how did you start?

I’ve been skateboarding for 27 years. I started when I was 10. My neighbour had a Banana Board and she’d let me borrow it because all I had were roller-skates at the time. When we would go sledding in winter I would always stand up instead of sitting down and sliding, this was before snowboards existed.

I also used to play football; I liked doing things with my feet. I instantly liked the sensation of cruising down a hill on a skateboard; I liked it so I just kept going.

Aside from skateboarding, you’re also well known for your artwork. Where did your interest in art come from?

I guess part of it probably started because I come from a big family. We weren’t poor but we had to share so we had a lot of paper, pencils and crayons. We did a lot of things that didn’t cost a lot. We didn’t go to DisneyWorld or anything like that. We just stayed around my neighbourhood and played outside. So in the winter I think I was just always drawing. Then in high school I had a couple of cool art teachers so they kept me interested. I worked with bits of clay and stuff; I just naturally liked doing it. Also I always tell everybody that my dad was really good. I can sketch around but my dad was really good at watercolour and could do figure drawings. So at a young age I saw him drawing and I was very attracted to that.

Do you feel skateboarding could be considered an art form?

Yeah, I guess if you call certain things the ‘arts’ like theatre or dancing. There’s definitely a movement to it that can be considered an art form. Skaters like to cut our shoes up and customise our jeans and all that (laughs). It’s pretty artsy overall. Some skaters just grow up nowadays in a skatepark but I live in New York so I see a lot of kids that definitely have unique styles here.

Do you feel there’s a cultural divide in skateboarding because of some kids just sticking to parks and not embracing other aspects?

I think it’s always going to be like that in everything. They’re maybe more simple and not as interested in the artistic side of things and that’s fine, it takes all sorts to make up the world. There’s going to be some major football player that’s into playing guitar or things besides football and there’s always going to be that teammate that only wants to play football. But definitely because there’s so many skateparks, there are more kids growing up that only know that world. Also, because of the Internet, as they grow they learn more about variety of music and stuff, whereas my generation would probably learn it on the street or at high school before the Internet. Kids are definitely exposed to more these days though so I think it’s alright. They’re all learning a lot in skateparks still, but if they find it uninteresting they’ll naturally take it to the streets and get a little more creative.

What are your biggest influences inside and outside of skateboarding? 

Inside skateboarding my influences were always Mark Gonzales and Jason Jessee. Others off the top of my head: Ed Templeton, I was really into his style and crazy weird graphics he drew, I liked Chris Miller, Neil Blender, Lance Mountain…. I’m probably not thinking of so many people…Jason Lee, Guy Mariano, the whole Blind video (Video Days).  Once we all got VCRs and video tapes the other thing that really influenced me was the Planet Earth video: Jovontae Turner, Brian Lotti…all kinds of people.

Outside of skateboarding I would say that people like David Bowie and Keith Haring probably influenced me the most. When I was a kid I was really into Mötley Crüe, I liked people with wild clothes and weird hair.

Definitely the period I grew up in was glam rock (laughs) so I was a little kid listening to Madonna and heavy metal. I have eleven sisters and two brothers. My sisters always had incredible records around the house and my dad listened to Jazz, so I grew up with a huge variety of genres of music around besides the influences from just skateboarding. I feel really lucky that I had all these sisters to give me R.E.M. records before you had the Internet y’know?

You said Lance Mountain was an influence, how does it feel now you both ride for Nike SB?

It’s great. I slowly got into being a pro skater from Donny Barley, he introduced me to Templeton, so I was around more and more contests. At the beginning I would see someone like Lance and he’s standing 10 feet away and it was crazy. I would sit on my floor and watch this guy and now I’m at the same contests with him, wearing the same badge around my neck. Over the years you get used to those things and that comes with any industry. I love it because Lance and I get along really good; it’s always a pleasure to see him. When we go on tour he’ll tell so many cool inside stories about videos we’ve seen and grew up on. It’s a real treat. He’s a really nice guy, just a skateboarder at heart too, super fun to be around and I just feel lucky to be involved.

Does drawing help you unwind from skateboarding? 

Definitely, I’ve almost always carried a sketchbook or camera. You can only drink so much beer in the van and all that. It’s nice to have my sketchbook and it does get me out of it. Also I save a lot of things so the next year when I open it back up I have all these memories from all trips around the world. It helps me escape and relax and also it provides a good memory for the rest of my life. It’s nice.

3D Skateboards – what’s it like being in charge of a company instead of just riding for one?

I love it, it’s challenging. I’m on the phone constantly with Brad Staba. It’s been alright in regards to the team so far because it’s just Austyn and me. In the beginning with Alex (Olson) wanting to do something different, that was stressful and hard but I expected that. Alex is very particular. But it’s been great, it’s really rewarding to have all these ideas and then see them finally come out after doing all the hard work that it takes to get things approved and getting everything paid for. It’s a lot, but that’s what I wanted, I wanted to challenge myself so I’m happy, I’m working really hard.

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