Fabi Lang rediscovered his motivation. This sounds a bit weird because you can’t really imagine that Fabi lost it. It happened though. If you had asked him a year ago for how long he’ll be standing on his board, he probably would’ve answered: “around five years”. But now he’s back in love with his skateboard, thanks to two friends who celebrate the release of the indie film Let’s Get It, involving the SHRN crew straight out of Munich.
[Photos: Conny Mirbach, Florian Hopfensperger, Leo Preisinger | Interview: Robinson Kuhlmann]
Portrait | Photo: Conny Mirbach
What the hell, Fabi? I never knew you planned on retiring and are now experiencing your revival!
[laughs] To be honest, I did. I had many fucking great years till I was 23 or 24, but then I broke my foot on the Mission Tour and looking back I’d say this was at the peak of my career. Everything was going fine up to that point and skating was similar to playing a videogame to me – at least in my head. But breaking my foot really put me off, so that I barely skated for two years.
Did your mindset change because of you getting hurt?
Not necessarily. But I skated so much before and because of the injury, wintertime, and starting to go to college I never really had the chance to get back into it. When I moved to Munich, I thought it will be really sick, but if you skate irregularly, it’s not just the routine you’re missing. When I slammed, I was out for two weeks once more and then you start to run around in circles. When I rolled my ankle at the Hellride at the beginning of the year, I thought: “Fuck! What’s going on? Where am I gonna end up if it keeps going on like this?”
Does this mean that you need some “training” on a regular basis? There are guys like Alex Löhr, who don’t step on their board for a long time, and it looks like they never took a break.
For others it might have looked like everything was cool, but it didn’t feel like it. Maybe I’m just too hard on myself and block everything by being too ambitious. However, I couldn’t drop this mentality till Marlon [Lange] got his camera and started to film for the video.
"To go out with Paul and Marlon motivated me"
I barely heard of skaters who gain motivation by filming for a video… Most skaters hate it, don’t they?
The video itself wasn’t what motivated me. I think it was due to the vibe around Marlon and Paul [Zenner] who were just down to skate street. The previous two years I basically only skated parks. Only when I was shooting a photo somewhere, I got out of my comfort zone, but it still didn’t feel right. To go out with Paul and Marlon, be active, and have this carefree feeling again – going to the spot, not worrying about whether something will work out or not, and realizing that the vibe is essential – that motivated me. Marlon having his camera was only a nice side effect.
There are people who go street skating to film a trick and then there are people, like Mark Achmüller back in the days, who went to a spot to skate it and hang out. I know that he had some problems with his motivation as well. Maybe that’s because there were only two or three other guys with him. How do you like Munich for skateboarding these days?
I think over the course of this year I rediscovered Munich and street skating. I filmed my last part five years ago and usually, when I finished a project like this, I always thought: “Fuck, what am I supposed to do next year? You have gone through all the spots and did all your tricks.” But since I’ve had some distance to street skating and gotten back into it now, skateboarding has changed and I discovered new possibilities.
It’s fascinating how spots are becoming more and more important, whereas back in the days you were like: “Well, would be nice, could be cool…” But somehow you didn’t know what to use those spots for. How do you feel about trends like… I don’t even know what to call it… creative skating? Low-impact skating? [to put fun and flow over the level of technical difficulty, editor’s note] I mean you skate really technical and it’s always revolving around progression. How do you think about the countermovement? Does it inspire you to practice new tricks?
I might be something in between. Sometimes the trend of doing slappies, wallrides, and pulling up the pants even higher is a little bit too much anti-establishment in my opinion. But at the same time it’s inspiring to me because slappies are just a fun thing to do. A simple curb can really upgrade a spot which used to be uninteresting and give inspiration for a new line.
Smithgrind | Photo: Conny Mirbach
Another thing that came to my mind is that skaters who grew up in major cities don’t seem as motivated to push themselves and skateboarding and that many kids from the suburbs, who make their way into the city, are the ones who get the sponsors and push the scene by, for example, making videos.
You’re talking about this village-skater-effect, as I like to call it. I think there’s something to it. The talented guys from small villages feel more accomplished because they are always the best. That’s a good drive for many of them even though they don’t want to know anything about it. When you start, it’s all about learning new tricks and maybe village kids are less distracted, too. When you get out of this microcosm and see the city and what’s really out there, you transfer this mindset, the wish of progressing, to the city. And then you also have different opportunities concerning photographers and filmers, which kids from the city take for granted, and make the best out of it.
Where do you see yourself in the future job-wise?
Thinking about the next five or ten years, probably somewhere in the skateboarding world because I’m really involved in a lot of stuff. Also there are a lot of people who really pushed me, drove me to contests or other cities all the way to New York. Those are the kinds of experiences I want to pass on to other people. Also I had my ups and downs and I think it sucks how some companies just waste their potential to fall into some sort of limbo again. Many companies only have operative goals, which aren’t really defined either. Along the lines of: “We have to improve our image… Let’s make a video.” It’s nice, but how are you going to measure your success? They put so much money into projects or their team for two or three years and then there’s nothing left for the budget of their riders. It’s every companies intention to survive on the market for good in order to be able to grow. In order to do so, you need to have a good strategy and make sure that you keep on going after finishing the first project. Whoever manages to exert a constant (advertising) pressure will stay relevant.
"It sucks how some companies just waste their potential"
There are many European companies which positioned themselves very well, while German brands have their problems. How would a German board company need to be like in order to have international success?
It probably shouldn’t be from Germany. I think that it’s a major problem that the German scene has always been too consolidated for it to be able to focus on all of Europe and take some risks. If you “made it” here, it meant that you made a couple of Euros off of skating and travelled a lot and everybody thought you’re “cool” and that’s pretty much it. To go one step further, you would need to invest a lot more and take risks, and I think many Germans rather take the safe route and go to university, being driven by their philistine foresight. That’s probably due to our prosperity and the career opportunities, which you even have as a skater in Germany, whereas skaters in France or Spain, where they have a youth unemployment rate of 50%, don’t have the fear of losing too much when they only focus on skateboarding without a plan B. And those two examples are the countries where most talented skaters come from, besides Scandinavia.
And what about the media. It seems like classical formats don’t seem to work anymore. Thrasher is still out there, but their format has changed because they do a lot more online and the magazine is more or less an addition to that. How do you see the changes in our media landscape [in which Fabian is not only participating as a skater]?
Maybe it’s at least to some extent the local media’s fault that skaters reach all their goals too quick. Back then the Monster or Limited always had the best trick of the month on their cover, which you looked at with great respect. Or the guy who had the interview also had the cover and that was appealing. Only a couple of pages revolved around artistic aspects, which has changed. It’s not all about skating anymore. I think that makes it less appealing for the kids to really gun it.
Ollie 50-50 | Photo: Conny Mirbach
That’s how I see it, too. The kids are lacking attraction, but on the other hand they put all their shit on Instagram and never hold it back till the mag is out.
I don’t think that the kids would waste their best trick if they had the chance to release it in form of an interview or the cover.
Sometimes it’s out of your own hands though. Ledermann does his backside bigspin the 13 stair and there are 50 people around him. I saw it from all kinds of angles because even those guys whom they explicitly told not to post it sent it to their homies. The landscape has changed a lot and it’s hard for a magazine to stay in control. That’s why I want to ask whether a print magazine is still up-to-date in this form?
Magazines will always exist if you do them right. I think in times where all magazines take a step into the direction of lifestyle the market would be open for a magazine that’s more like Thrasher. It would have the hardest tricks and the sickest things on the cover. I believe that even the kids who only do slappies, wallies, no complies, and ollies would dig it. And I also believe that a magazine like Monster would still work today. Thrasher is the only American magazine that stayed true and they’re still successful, which results in their monopoly. Not because they are the only ones who’ve done everything the right way, but rather because many other magazines fucked it up.
Do you have a favorite European magazine?
Not really. But I have to say that – even though I think the design of Free really sucks when it comes to its layout – the photos in it are just super good. There’s a wicked article about some tour and a strong interview with good skate photos; I don’t need more. I don’t need an artsy magazine. It’s a no brainer. I just want to see good skate photos.
"Maybe it’s the local media’s fault that skaters reach all their goals too quick"
You are working in the media as well – what exactly?
I slipped into being an editor for Red Bull because I started to fill its skateboarding channel with content. So I can pretty much estimate how tough it is to produce something like this every month and make it interesting.
That’s only online though, right?
It’s about online content only although I also take away readers from print media because a couple of kids think something like “I rather read it online” or “the stuff they have on their website is a lot cooler”. But it’s just my job, you know?
Could you imagine it to be another way to extend your activities there?
I don’t think so. I really like what I’m doing right now, but I think it might be boring some day. You’re just done with it eventually. Then you’ve written everything and there’s nothing left for you to do.
Switch 50-50 | Photo: Florian Hopfensperger
What part of skateboarding really fucks you up?
In my opinion, skateboarding should’ve been considered a sport long before they were talking about making it Olympic. Companies, whether they have big budget or not, should really appreciate their riders. It feels like even the big companies don’t do enough. Along the lines of: “Yeah man, you know, we’re homies. Here you have two boards and three pairs of shoes and now go and kill yourself for us.” At this point I always ask myself what’s the stimulus for those kids? Isn’t it more like an illusion till they realize that you can’t really get anywhere with it?
I talked to Florian Netzer [creative guy in Munich and temp of SHRN; editor’s note] recently…
Fuck Florian Netzer!
[laughs] …we talked about the nerdy habits of a couple of people. Do you have some? Florian, for example, is someone who gets extremely lost in music.
I have to admit that I’m just really stuffy. My life is just really linear and I’m always on track. I pulled the skateboarding thing through and even if I’m a nerd in this field, I mainly focus on doing my work very well and try to lead a solid, German life. That’s why I’m lacking the time to get into other things. Sometimes I don’t even know whether I’m coming or going because I’m really conscientious. But even when I can imagine myself in a suite, working in some office, I can also imagine to do some craftsmanship some day because it always fascinated me. I always liked tools and construction materials. So if I’ve earned enough money one day, I can retire early and use my time to learn the things I’m interested in. I’d probably do an apprenticeship at a carpentry and have a small workshop. I’d read a lot and maybe learn some IT stuff. To gather knowledge, that would be luxury.
"I totally backed everything I did this year"
Do you like to dance?
Yes… I used to take dance lessons when I was younger – but not just one course. I was going regularly.
[Robinson laughs really hard]
I still have dancing shoes at home.
What kind of dances did you learn?
All kinds. Standard dances for sure… rumba, waltz… It wasn’t my idea though, I joined my girlfriend back then. I was skeptical at first, but when I went for the first time, I started liking it a lot.
Are you still able to do those dances?
Not really, only some cha-cha-cha and a little bit of waltz, that’s imprinted in my mind for sure.
My girlfriend just brought it up again recently and I’d start again any time. I think it’s sick. I mean, in a way skating is the same as dancing. The more motion sequences you learn, the better you’re gonna get and the more fun you’re gonna have. If you realize how to do a front crooks, then you really want to do that trick. If you realize the step sequence of salsa, then you think it’s fun, too, when everything becomes so easy that you can really start moving around. It’s super sick.
Switch Backside Smithgrind | Photo: Florian Hopfensperger
Okay. You just said that you are getting better at figuring out what you want to do for a living because you could already eliminate a lot of things [not printed, editor’s note]. Is this the same with your skating and is it visible in your Let’s Get it part?
Absolutely. I never thought that I would ever say this about one of my parts, but I’m 100% content.
Because you’ve gotten older or because the part is really good? [laughs about his own joke]
Well, it’s probably connected to the development I have experienced this year and that I feel comfortable on my board again. I totally backed everything I did this year. I don’t feel the need to flip out of every trick nowadays. I’d rather slide 6 feet (two meters) longer, so the trick feels better. And I think that this feeling comes across in my part. [short pause while the coffee machine is making noise] When I’m talking about something, it always feels super boring to me.
Not at all.
No really, it feels like that. It’s hard to explain. Many people ask me if I’m bored when I sit somewhere and think. And I myself know that my life is pretty square. I might think a little bit too much. And when I want to convey something, I’m way too uptight and hesitate instead of just speaking out. That might be the reason why I’m not as creative as other skaters.
Someone once told me that people get their excitement or their thrill from all kinds of things. For example, there are people who are in a steady relationship for a long time, have a safe job, are totally happy, and then go paragliding because they need the kick. Others seek their risk job-wise and start dealing with stocks – everybody seeks risks in different places and maybe the risk of skating is enough for you.
If skateboarding would be a person, what would you tell this person?
I’d probably thank them for not being racist or homophobic and that nobody is excluded.
Do you really think so? I mean Brian Anderson just came out, which is cool, but most active skaters probably don’t really know too much about him anymore. Why couldn’t he do it at the peak of his career or rather why hasn’t anyone come out who’s at their climax?
Good point. Probably the fear is still big enough to make the shoe or board sales decline and the contract wouldn’t be extended. I think that the scene is developing in a good direction though and that it’s a good example for the rest of our society. Of course there are always gonna be racist or homophobic skaters or some will say that it’s no sport for women. We are never going to be 100% tolerant, but we are getting more and more tolerant as time passes and I think this is true for the rest of society as well.
50-50 pop over | Photo: Leo Preisinger