Chris Nieratko interviewed Alien Workshop’s Gilbert Crockett at length for issue #120. They spoke for nearly an hour, but due to space constraints we couldn’t fit the entire interview in The Mag so here’s the full transcript of their conversation for your reading pleasure, and a few extra photos for your looking pleasure.
The wiry, bowlegged boy from Richmond, Virginia, named Gilbert Crockett looks like no one we’ve ever seen on a skateboard.
You recently relocated to LA after living in Richmond most of your life. What prompted that?
I grew up in Richmond and moved to San Diego for two or three years when I was seventeen and then moved back again. I was just ready to move again and switch it up. Vans and Alien Workshop are out in California, and we’re working on the Vans video, and this is the smart move for me to do. I’m stoked. I live in Los Feliz right now. I’m still getting used to it. It’s a lot different.
I knew when I moved home from LA I was never moving back to California. You ever feel like that?
Yeah, I felt that way. But I never lived in LA and I never had a reason to. I just thought I was moving back to Richmond and I would do it from there. I did and I was really happy with it. Richmond is small, though, and I just got the itch again to try something new. I became really good friends with everyone at Vans and with us working on a video and everyone here filming together, it was an easy choice to move here.
Was there ever a point where any sponsors pressured you to move back to Cali? Or do you think kids can make it nowadays regardless of where they’re living?
I think it depends on how you choose to do it. I think you can do it from wherever you want. If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing then someone is going to want to work with you. Some people just can’t be denied, like Jake Johnson. He’s one of my favorite skateboarders, and he did it from New York and Pennsylvania. He moved to San Francisco for a bit, but he started his career back there. Ishod [Wair] too. There are people like that that can live wherever they want because they’re putting the work in.
You mentioned Alien is out here. How has their moving to California affected the company?
It didn’t really affect anything for me or any of the other dudes. The thing is Workshop is still in Ohio. The heart and brain of the Workshop is still there—Mike Hill, Chris Carter, Chad Bowers—they’re still there. So anything that comes out of Alien Workshop is coming from Ohio. The warehouse and the product just happen to be in California. If that makes sense businesswise I don’t have a problem with that. Even if those dudes move out here I wouldn’t care. I love those guys. They do awesome shit, and they always have, and I think they’ll keep the integrity of the brand no matter what.
I remember Rob Dyrdek didn’t even know who you were. You got a shoe coming out on Vans; does he know who you are now?
He knew who I was, but he didn’t know what I looked like. I walked up to him and said what’s up, and he didn’t know who I was. I thought it was funny at the time. It’s cool now; I talk to him on the phone and have real conversations with him pretty often now.
How did you react when AVE and Dill left?
I was bummed. It was unexpected for me, and I didn’t know what to think or do. The thing is that they’re doing something on their own. They’re not going out and riding for someone else, and I have respect for that. To leave and start your own thing is the most respectable way to leave.
Were you bummed they didn’t ask you to go with them?
No. Those dudes did a lot for me. I can’t complain or pout that they left. They helped me out, and Workshop helped me out, and I can’t thank them and Workshop enough for everything they’ve all done. But I’m happy on Workshop.
Let’s talk Vans video. How’s it going for you?
It’s good. I’m really happy with everything I have. I still know exactly the stuff I still want to get for it, but at the pace we’re moving and where I’m at, I’m happy with my footage. I think it’s going to be awesome and I can’t wait. Everything about it is amazing: seeing the other tricks that people get, knowing what Greg [Hunt] is capable of doing—it’s crazy and I’m happy to be a part of it.
Do you forget things you’ve done?
Yeah, I hadn’t watched footage for three years. I watched three years of footage a couple months ago at Greg’s house and was like, “What the fuck? This is weird.” But I don’t really want to watch the footage; I think it’s better that way. I just try and think about the next trick I’m going to get and not keep looking at the one I just got.
Do you accidentally refilm tricks?
No, I remember the main things I like, but maybe I’ll film a line at a random spot and I don’t even remember it because it was two years ago on some trip in some place I can’t remember. I do remember redoing a trick I was really psyched on. It was a rail with brick ground with a lot of plants and planters around the spot. We got a clip there and the footage got lost, but in the footage you could see all the plants and they’re relevant because you’re up against this giant planter. So we went back to redo it, and they had ripped everything out and filled it with, like, San Diego sand and it just looked like a San Diego spot. They turned it from this really good-looking spot and made it look like crap, and I didn’t want to skate it anymore. Luckily we went back a month later and they’d replanted all the plants and it looked so sick again, and we redid the trick and it worked out great. It was really weird that it happened.
Why are you so selective about your spots as you are your tricks?
I guess it has to do with really giving a shit about what I’m doing. I’ve done it long enough to know what I want to do and I know what I want it to look like and I know exactly what I don’t want. I’ve found myself in situations asking myself why am I going to put the effort into something that I don’t like. It’s like anything: The older you get the more you figure out how to live your life and what you like and don’t like. That’s what life is about; figuring shit out. Skating for me, I’ve figured out what I want to be doing. If I get to a spot and I think it looks like shit, there’s no way I can get myself to film a trick. Maybe that’s just me or me thinking about things too much, but I think that mentality is lost. A lot of people don’t think about quality control. You don’t want to just throw shit all over the place. Figure out what you love and do it. When you’re just bullshitting all over the place, what are you doing? If you’re down for everything, then you’re down for nothing. If you like everything, what kind of character is that? How real are you actually being? You can’t like everything. People are full of shit. But I feel like I used to be more negative and get pissed off about shit like quality control and people putting bullshit out. If you don’t care about what footage you’re putting out, how are people going to care about it?
On the flip side, it feels like you’ve put out a homie part nearly every six months for the past two years and it’s all been good stuff. But I haven’t. Every six months? I guess, maybe. For me it’s respecting someone being really real. If someone is really into tech-ass ledge skating and you’re doing some bizarre-ass shit and I can tell that it’s really what you want to be doing and you have a vision, I can respect that. It’s like Daewon! Daewon does some fucked up shit wherever he’s at, and I have respect for that because I know that’s what he wants to be doing. I can watch it and know that he’s doing exactly what he wants to do. And he cares.
That’s another thing aside from quality control; people just don’t care. How many people are good at skating and you can tell they don’t give a fuck about it? They’re trying to roll away from some hard trick acting like they don’t care. They’re trying to put their arms down and act like it’s not hard for them. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see someone acting like it’s not hard for them. I want to see someone try. I want to see someone care. Whatever, dude! Care! Caring is awesome! If people cared and put enthusiasm into it, I can respect it.
Talking about caring, you don’t drink and you’re not preachy about it. Why don’t you drink and why do you feel it’s important to have the opposite of the party guy image?
I’ve never drank so that’s normal to me; I don’t know what it’s like on the other side. That’s always been a very conscious decision to make it to age 24 not drinking, and I’ve always really cared about not doing it. Both of my parents are recovered alcoholics, and I didn’t want to fuck up my life, and there’s a pretty damn good chance of doing that with me if I drink because everything that I do I am really into and get really passionate about. It’s a guarantee I’ll fuck up everything that I have and that I’ve worked for if I drink. I don’t preach about it, and everyone is going to do what they’re going to do, but I don’t want a photo of me on the internet with a beer, even if it’s not mine or if it’s next to me because it’s going to give someone the wrong message, and they’re going to think I drink. And maybe that’s not a big deal to them but me thinking about a kid or anyone seeing me with a beer on the internet is fucked up to me and I’d feel super weird about it. It’s like anything else, caring about what you put out. I care about not drinking, and I’m going to care if someone thinks that I drink. It feels super wrong to me and it always has and that’s why I never drank because I know in my heart that that’s bad for me, it’s the worst thing that I can do. It’s not the right path for me.
You brought up Daewon—that’s a totally different style of skating than yours. I also think that there’s a lot of different styles of skating on the Vans team. Whose part are you looking forward to?
I feel like AVE is filming the best video part of his career right now. I’m really looking forward to seeing that. He’s one of my favorite dudes growing up. Daniel [Lutheran] is one of my favorite people in the world, and he’s a perfect example of someone caring about what he’s doing. He’s not just shitting out clips. He’s choosing what he wants to do and is really passionate about doing gnarly shit, so people are going to trip out. And this whole video is like that. Andrew Allen is one of my favorite dudes; I love the way he skates. He cares about what spots he skates and what footage and photos come out and you can see that, it translates. Just about everyone in the video I’m really stoked to see, but I’d say those three dudes I’m really looking forward to.
Does it weigh on you at all that this is the first video this legendary company with nearly 50 years under its belt is making? Is there pressure to put out something that is just as timeless as the brand?
It does, but at the same time I’m dealing with Greg Hunt and Cody Green and those dudes understand what I want to do. They understand the type of person I am and the type of skateboarder I am and they work with me. They’re not trying to get me to do stuff that I don’t want to do. They’re behind me filming the type of skating I want to film and putting it out in a way that is going to look and feel unique to me, and they’re stoked on that. I can’t ask for anything more than that. With that being said, I don’t overthink that this is going to be the first Vans video, I just think about what I want to be filming and getting it done.
Does it trip you out that the little boy from Virginia is going to be one of six guys with his name on a Vans pro model shoe?
Yeah, that’s weird. It’s totally weird. But I’ve never been so happy about something I’m doing. I’ve always been really into shoes; I used to draw shoes in class in middle school. When I started buying skate shoes I was immediately obsessed with the designs and the way they feel. From middle school to now I’ve always drawn shoes, and at this point Vans is letting me make a shoe exactly how I want to make it. I sent them the drawing a year ago and they made it exactly how I drew it, and that’s the shoe I have coming out; it’s crazy. I’m really stoked.
When I visited you in Richmond a few years ago you were whittling a pair of shoes. Did you make any of your pro models by hand?
No, I did not. I drew it, that’s all I can say.
What are you going to do with your big royalty checks? Buy a block in Richmond?
I don’t know. I’d love to buy a house in Richmond. I don’t know what I’m going to do … try not to be an idiot, I guess.
Do you think you’ll use some of that money to go on another date with Active Erica?
No. Date? Damn. That was not a date! This is rough. She gave me a ride home.
With her mouth?
No. I asked for a ride home and she took me to get ice cream. Then she gave me a ride home. That’s not a date.