A couple of years ago you had an interview in Thrasher, "Everyone Loves Leo." The first time I called you on the phone, I think all I said was, "Everyone loves Leo." And you rode for Foundation.
Tell me about the good times back then, riding for Foundation. How did you get on the team?
Basically Josh Beagle called me up and wanted me to go on this tour, which I went on, which was one of the funnest trips I've ever been on. It's so crazy being on a trip with Kevin Field, this guy Hefty, and Matt--err--John, sorry. It was pretty fun because Charlie Thomas lectured John and me for fucking around so much.
Where did you guys go?
Just a California trip.
Up and down the coast?
How did Josh Beagle just call you?
We sent in a sponsor video. Johnny from Foundation kind of hooked it up.
And were you living in Fontana then?
Yeah. Born in East Los Angeles, raised in Fontana.
How long did you ride for Foundation? Probably three years.
All good times?
Yeah, all good times. Totally.
How'd you make the transition from Foundation to Baker?
It got to the point where I wasn't happy there anymore, for certain reasons, and Andrew caught wind of that. He's been one of my favorite skaters coming up, and the whole Baker genre videos were very inspiring to me, growing up as a skateboarder. Once he asked me to ride for them I just figured it was the opportunity of a lifetime. It's that whole genre that I was really into.
Being a kid, riding in Fontana, riding for Foundation, how did you meet Andrew Reynolds?
Riding for Emerica, just like that.
Well, that's a whole other story, Emerica.
Yeah, but that's how I know him. I knew Andrew and Herman and Spanky. I'd known Herman before that, though, from Pharmacy.
How did it go down between leaving Foundation and getting on Baker? Was there any friction there?
Yeah, Tod Swank was a real faggot then.
I broke it off as fucking clean as I could break it off. I didn't want any bad blood, because I love those guys and what they did for me. So me and Robin, who used to work for Baker, and Josh Beagle and Matt Barker, we kind of worked up this agreement where I was still going to ride until they sold through all my boards so they wouldn't lose any money, and they were happy. We made this deal, and say a month and a half into it, finally Tod Swank calls me and gave me this lecture how he didn't think I should do it, and he thinks it's bad for me. I said, "I already made my decision." And that's when he pretty much said, "Alright, well, I can sue you," basically.
Did he sue you?
No. I didn't have a contract signed.
How did Baker take all this?
At first I was kind of freaked out about it, just because it's like, "Fuck, this guy's going to sue me? Oh shit, that sucks." He could probably sue me for a lot because he's got the gnarly lawyer, but then it got to the point where we were just trying to work out this deal. He still kept on being a crybaby about it, and it got to the point where he couldn't do anything because I was going to end the contract. I got some footage from him and he was charging us a certain amount of money for the footage. I don't know what his intentions were or why he was being such a dick. I was trying to be as cool as possible to the company; I loved everybody there. It's just that he was being a complete dick about it.
Baker always seems to have surprise parties for riders turning pro. Did you have one?
No, 'cause I turned pro when I was on Foundation.
Yeah, but getting a board, did they surprise you with it, or did you know when and where it was coming out?
I knew because of the whole agreement and working it all out.
What's up with the Baker crew these days? What's happening over there?
In Snailsville? Standard snailing?
Is anything new coming up?
We're actually working on this video. I think Antwuan and I have parts in it, and then everybody's going to have some footage in it. We have a Baker house right now. It's a pretty nice house. Beagle lives there, and I think Kevin might be moving in, and Braydon lives there. It's pretty much skating and getting this shit done.
Is that video going to be all new footage of you, or old footage from Foundation?
It's not all old. I have a couple things I'm going to use from that, but it's mainly new footage.
It's not new-new footage, 'cause I'm saving a lot of my footage for the Emerica video, but it's not crap footage.
Is the video pretty much you and Antwuan with big parts?
Well I don't know about big parts, because I'm filming for the Emerica video also. But Antwuan might have a big-ass part because he's really good. It's going to be montages and hijinx footage. I don't know if anybody else has a part.
When does the Emerita video come out?
The holidays, 2007.
You guys have been filming a lot and traveling a lot; have you been doing anything special for the video?
Not really as much right now, but it's getting into gear.
It's just now getting into gear?
Just the traveling portion, 'cause we always travel in a bunch. But now we're going to start getting really involved in this, traveling a lot. Traveling where? What's the plan?
France, Japan, places like that.
Is there anywhere in particular that you would like to travel to?
Any particular parts of France?
I've never been to Lyon.
Have you been to France before?
Yeah. It's perfect, amazing. Great food, great broads.
Great wine, great women, slightly hairy.
I love crepes.
Now you're in the middle of doing the Emerica video, you guys have an Emerica house, kind of like the new Emerica mansion--who lives there and how's that going?
There are ups and downs, but overall it's fucking awesome ... besides the fact it's in LA.
It's me, Heath, John Minor, Kevin, and Spanky.
What's wrong with it being in LA?
LA sucks. It's lucking overpopulated and bad. I mean, I've learned to deal, but whatever; I'd prefer not to live there.
You're over the spots, over the people, over the traffic?
Yeah, traffic, people, and just where I'm living. Sometimes, unless I'm on my bike, it takes like five minutes just to pull into my driveway 'cause I'm stopped in front my house 'cause of the light.
Do you usually ride your motorcycle all the time now, or are you still driving a lot?
No, I ride my motorcycle mainly.
The whole Emerica household has bikes, right?
Yeah. We've got a clubhouse where we keep all the bikes ... and keep all the beer, and hang out.
What's the clubhouse like?
The clubhouse is the garage, filled with motorcycles, a lot of the time alcohol, and, urn, great lighting. Great lighting in the clubhouse. We pretty much sit out there at night and hang out with some music and some beers and some bros. And occasionally babes.
Speaking of motorcycles, how was the Emerica--what's the name?
Wild Ride, the motorcycle trip.
It was the funnest trip I have been on. Ever.
Where did you guys go and what made it so good?
We went from Denver to Chicago, and Chicago to California. We made it so good because we were on bikes. The first portion of it was still fun, but it was kind of overwhelming because we had demos every day. It was exhausting riding an hour or two with them, and then another hour after a demo, 'cause it was so hot. But it was still so fun. Even if you were like me it was so torturous, but once you'd stop you'd be like, "Damn, for as much as that sucked that was really fun."
Jim Arrighi: Okay, Jimmy from RVCA cutting in. Let's talk about your motorcycle experience, because this is very interesting. Pre-trip, how much experience did you have before you drove to Chicago on a motorcycle?
Three days of experience.
Jim Arrighi: Did you even have a license?
No. I still don't have a license.
Jim Arrighi: Did you have a permit?
I had a permit. I had a permit, but I lost it.
Jim Arrighi: He literally learned how to ride a motorcycle in front of RVCA--three days before he left.
And you failed your test a couple of days beforehand, too.
No, I didn't fail it. I went to this school and I took the test thing, and then it was the driving portion of it the next day. I was really annoyed by all the people there, and teachers were picking favorites. One of them was kind of cool, but the other one was being an asshole. I'd ask questions and she would tell me to "shush." I don't understand that. I had a fucking helmet on that covered my ears so I couldn't hear shit. It was hot as fuck, and early. And then that night there was a RVCA party--free alcohol--and then, well, there you go. Jeff Henderson from Emerica picks me up the next day and I couldn't take the second part of the driving portion of that class because I was, uh, still drunk, and, uh, puking.
So how did you fare on the trip?
The only thing that sucked were intersections. Freeways were the funnest thing ever. The first time I got on there, Heath was looking at me smiling like, "Yeah, son! Freaked out?" It was fucking amazing.
What happens at intersections?
Nothing, really; just so many cars going everywhere and people turning different directions. It's not sketchy for me anymore, but when I first started it was really sketchy for me.
Are there any similarities between riding a motorcycle and skating? Wind in your face ... I mean, it's different than driving a car.
It's different than driving a car, for sure. You could say that skateboarding is like riding a motorcycle, and snowboarding is like riding in a car compared to skating.
You ride for RVCA and Jimmy works there, your good friend who used to live down here, and how was that?
That was fun living with a 31 year old man. How old are you?
Jim Arrighi: Thirty-six.
Why were you living down here? Because of RVCA, or just for a place to live?
No, just a place to live. I was trying to get out of my mom's house because there were a lot of people living there. Normal Mexican household with cousins and shit.
Yeah, that's normal. Jim Arrighi: Originally he just crashed on the couch for a bit.
Yeah, originally I just stayed in the living room. Eventually one of the guys moved out.
You built a mini-ramp while you lived down here. I remember seeing you the first day or two after it was built. It seems like you were learning how to skate a mini, and then a month later you're fucking getting all Chad Knight on me, going nuts. Since you lived with the guys at RVCA it was like your own ramp and you could skate whenever you wanted. How was that?
Oh, it was fun, because every day I would come down to RVCA anyways with Jimmy. I'd just walk around with Jimmy, talking shit to employees. So we'd walk around and talk shit, and then come to the office and shop around. At night, when it was first open, Jimmy would skate, but now he doesn't really. Now it's really mellow; no one really skates, but I took him down there every week. We'd hang out and shit.
But you skated pretty much every day when it was open?
Yeah, every day.
What's it like skating mini-ramps every day after growing up skating street? Are the two the same? It seems like you learned pretty quickly.
It's kind of like street skating, just a different type.
With the mini-ramp, you go really fucking fast, especially with this ramp. It's a really good ramp, built for speed.
Learning to skate tranny better, do you think it helps you street skate?
Yeah, definitely. You gain an appreciation for a different type of skating, and it makes your style a little bit more comfortable because you know more. Your body knows more skating than just one certain type, which makes you more comfortable on your board.
Jim Arrighi: Do you think it opens your eyes to different terrain?
Yeah, definitely, a little bit more creative outlook.
You grew up in Fontana, in Southern California. Unlike a lot of kids around the world who don't grow up here, you probably grew up seeing tons of pros around.
More so than if you grew up in Kansas. What were some early memories of seeing pros, or some big name people that blew you away when you were young?
Probably the first three actual demos I went to. I was a huge fan of Zero back then, and Baker, and Birdhouse. Then I got to see Adrian Lopez and Jamie Thomas. That was a huge experience seeing them, being blown away. Fuck.
Did it seem like something you could do, or did it seem completely beyond?
I didn't think of it as that, really. I don't know what I really thought; I just couldn't believe it. I didn't think of being a pro skater, it kind of just ended up working out ... somehow.
Now that you're pro, does skating feel a lot different to you than when you were a kid? Or do you still feel like a kid sometimes?
I feel like a kid sometimes. But sometimes I get tripped out, like freaked out, and lose my mind.
Just because there are certain obligations. Not only obligations, but also sometimes you have deadlines and shit. When I was a kid I didn't have deadlines, you know what I mean? Now, that's the only shitty part, but very rarely. I have no fucking complaints at all.
What's the biggest perk of being pro, or being able to do what you want to do and getting paid for it?
Basically being a professional at skateboarding, drinking, hanging out, and not working. That's my profession, right there.
I was skating the RVCA ramp a long time ago and I heard Jimmy call you the Mexican Birdman. How did that come about?
Jim Arrighi: I thought it was you, wasn't it?
Nah, it was you. I couldn't have come up with that one. Or maybe you called him Birdman and I threw Mexican in there.
I don't know how it came about. Usually we were just skating the ramp and Jimmy was saying funny-ass shit. And laughing half the time we're on the ramp. One time you were there and ...
Jim Arrighi: I think you and I were confrontating, and you were like "Mexican Birdman."
Yeah, you guys just came out with the cherry.
It stuck pretty good. Why is it that no one can ever understand half of what you say?
People are fucking retarded, that's why.
But you kind of mumble and speed talk at the same time.
Give me an example. I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. People are all, "What did you say? You said it too fast."
It's bird speak, or 'dactile speak.
I think it is 'dactile.
True 'dactile. You had a board that had a high-five hand on it. Explain.
The bros and me go out and we give high fives, so it's inspired by that.
Is it a normal high five, or is there some oomph behind it?
Oh, there's some oomph.
Weren't you going to have some of your photos in an art show?
Oh yeah, I was, but this fucking bitch decided to--she kicked me out.
What are your photos all about?
Whatever I do, whatever I'm around. Sometimes I'm around chicks going fucking crazy and people doing drugs, just people going off, basically, and I take photos of it.
You have a darkroom in your house, correct?
Yeah. I rarely use it, though, because of ventilation. I don't have any ventilation with the chemicals and I start tasting it after three days; it gets pretty fucking harsh.
Are you going to have a show soon here?
I think I'm going to have a show soon here. At some ASR thing, and Happy magazine.
Jim Arrighi: Didn't Dawes have a cover on Happy?.
Dawes did have a cover on Happy; nailed me fuck out of it, actually.
Thanks, brah. Nice plug.
There's going to be a 10-page article about my photos and stuff.
What photos are they?
Mainly photos of kids and teenagers. That's pretty much the whole premise of it.
Do you have any incriminating photos of people we might know?
You don't have to mention names, but what are the photos like?
People doing things when they're drunk, and then they think about it later. I don't really understand why you'd be bummed if you already did it. It's just knowing that you did it.
Maybe there's actual evidence that proves that you did it?
I guess that's one of the problems with that. But I've got some pretty incriminating pictures of myself, also.
I shot a photo of you awhile ago, and you had double black eyes that you had given yourself. How did that happen?
I drank two bottles of wine and I woke up like that.
Were you punching yourself in the face?
Yeah, I found two rolls of photos of my face from that night.
I heard you're really into getting drunk and playing the black eye game.
It's pretty fun, but I'm kind of leaning away from that right now. That's probably smart. Who has given you the best black eye?
Adam Connolly. He jumped out of some random chick's car and then he punched me, and then out of nowhere blood started gushing out. I didn't notice until he was like, "Oh shit, you're bleeding." So you had a good black eye?
Yeah, I had a good one. But when we got back from a trip we were at the house celebrating our return, and then I fucking nailed him with one, which lasted about a month. So I had the last laugh.
Is that the best black eye you've given someone?
Yeah, I busted his face; it's fucking awesome. He's got photos from that, too.
Just one punch? Sucker punch, or did he see it coming?
No, it was me and him and Ben Gilley, which is pretty fucking scary, playing with Ben.
He's got some oomph behind it?
He's got some fucking oomph--and his fists are huge.
Jim Arrighi: Is the black eye game like laser tag?
No, no, no. It's not sneak attack; it's premeditated.
Do you prefer skating rails and gaps?
No, just sometimes it's more fun skating rails, and sometimes it's more fun skating mini-ramps.
What's fun fight now? If you had your pick of what and where you'd skate right now, where would it be?
Right now? Probably the roof ramp, 'cause I'm here and I know how tasty it is.
You're getting ready to go on King of the Road. Any predictions?
A lot of sabotage from the Baker team. Keep your eyes peeled. Toy Machine, Zero. Any other companies? Darkstar.
Are you excited to go on KOTR or are you freaked out by it?
I'm not freaked out by it. If there's cool things about it, then there will be stupid-ass things about it. You know? I'm excited, but I'm kind of over it for reasons completely opposite of that, because of my living situation. I'm excited about it because I'm down with the Baker team, and Baker rarely ever goes on trips together. That should be fun. We're all pretty much psyched on fucking other people up.
What kind of bike do you have right now?
I've got a Harley Davidson 883R Sportster '06.
Any plans for modifying it or getting a different bike someday?
I'm going to get a Night Train next year for that Harley trip.
A bigger bike.
Jim Arrighi: Think you'll have your license? Probably not. But yeah, modifications for this bike: new exhaust and chip, I lowered it, I have my forward controls, and I'm getting new rims.
Will we see you out on the road on your bike anytime soon? Whether it's a skating trip or solo mission or just with friends?
Yeah, when I leave this place.
No, | mean out and about, out in the country, somewhere else.
I want to go to Idaho and visit my brother. My friend Huey is pretty much down to nail some road trips, so we'll definitely be out and about, for sure.
Anything we should look for, Leo, throughout the rest of this year and in the future?
Emerica video, Baker video, shoe just came out. It's tasty. My pants are coming out from RVCA. Trips to Japan, Italy with RVCA, a lot of traveling and filming for the Emerica video.
Aren't you getting a truck out, too?
Truck out soon.
Thunder. Wheels on Spitfire.
Okay, I guess we're done.
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|Article Type:||Cover story|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2006|
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