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Quasi Skateboards | Going Dark! – Interview with Chad Bowers

Launched early last year as a new independent company in the wake of the old Sect, it’s already clear that Quasi Skateboards is more than “just another player in that whole small brand renaissance” – and that they’ve come to stay. Run by Chad Bowers, who conceptualized and built the company together with Jake Johnson, Tyler Bledsoe, and Gilbert Crockett, a single year was indeed enough to establish an entire aesthetic and vibe, a sentiment that couldn’t be more honest: Everything about Quasi is no-frills yet out there, no-nonsense yet always over the top.Let’s put it this way: If all life is about form vs. formlessness, order vs. chaos, pattern vs. free-play, Bowers’s approach, complete with “Ladyboy” hats and horses jumping skate spots in ads, is constantly leaning towards the latter – and yet it does so without falling apart at the seams or even trying to venture anywhere else, like other “fashion” skate brands or your latest favorite vanity project.
And even though it feels like it was only yesterday that the first Quasi products dropped – originally called Mother Collective, until Bowers received a cease-and-desist order – the turbulent early days of this brand are already old news and pretty much forgotten. Why? Simply because they keep upping the ante – with rad team additions (Dick Rizzo! Josh Wilson!), more insane visuals and graphics, and more of the best Canadian maple in the game (thanks to PS Stix’s Mr. Schmitt down in Mexico). It’s all based on an approach that even Eckhart Tolle would approve of: Don’t waste time looking back (at Sect problems, at naming beef, etc.) or too far ahead (at video goals, money goals), but just do whatever feels right – right now.
Just like skateboarding itself, which has finally reached a point where a large enough number of folks doesn’t care too much about robotic “trickster-trophy horses”, where you can do everything that’s possible or impossible on a board without risking too many nudged ribs and rolled eyes, Quasi hasn’t been afraid to bring back bumper stickers, to add profit-cutting posters or large-scale top prints, or to dedicate a large part of their online store to selling small, independent videos and zines. Even the (awesome) early motto “No More Corporate Blues” has already been replaced by something less dissociative – but certainly no less heavy. “That whole ideology died when we got sued and had to change the name,” says Chad Bowers. “I wear Nike socks now. They are plush.”
Not attached to any coast, any big-player network, or any other set of restrictions, the Ohio-based brand and its three pro musketeers can even “go dark” like some Thomas Pynchon protagonist: “Sometimes you gotta go dark,” Chad told us in this interview – and that makes sense for a man in his position: After all, a mother (or father) knows that if you drop off the radar for a bit, things are usually all right…

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[Interview: Renko Heuer | Photos/Artworks: Quasi Skateboards/Chad Bowers]

Chad, what’s good these days in Dayton, Ohio? Would you still say it’s just the right place because of less distractions?
Yes, it’s home. Right now it’s hot, humid and methy. Looking forward to some trips and some autumn weather.

How often do Jake, Tyler, and Gil drop by in “Gem City” these days?
Gil comes every few months or so. Jake’s about due for a visit, too. I’m planning a trip now, which will probably start here, so it’ll be good to have everyone here for a bit.

How involved are they at this point?
Nothing’s changed really.

I’m asking because they were so heavily involved in the early-early, conceptual stages when Mother/Quasi was formed…
Yeah, everyone is still super involved. They still help with their board graphics and other ideas.

Last time we spoke, you seemed somewhat overwhelmed by how amazingly well things had taken off – and now they seem to be going even better. Still overwhelmed?
Yeah… I can’t keep up sometimes. It’s been one of the hardest and most rewarding things to work on. We’ve got a good crew over here, too, so that helps.

What size do you think is just right for a skateboard company in 2016?
I think we’re in a nice place in terms of size and what we make. Over time, it has to grow, but I really want to avoid ever having 10+ pros. I think those days are done.

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Each collection is sicker than the last – where do you find inspiration?
Thank you. I try to talk to people, see what they’re into. I really just get stoned and go to the thrift store. Skating is nice, too, because you can’t think about anything else so it’s a good restart.

And you still don’t spend more than “10 minutes on the initial idea” for a board design? That’s still the modus operandi?
Pretty much. You can spend days trying to get something right, but if the idea is shit, it’s shit.

Yeah, but the vibe, for example, of Gil’s two latest pro models – the Rust vs. the Super Sport – is so different… tell me about the creation of those.
It’s simple: I’ll get a text from Gil that says: “Can we do a speed boat board?” or “What do you think of my friend Rust’s painting?” Then it happens. Pretty simple.

Even though they are extremely different, there’s still an element of juxtaposition, color, asymmetry, and just free-play/general-mold-breaking-mindedness that seems to link them… can you put this in better words for me?
I don’t want to get too into it with “design” jargon. Honestly, the only thought that crosses my mind is: “How will this look set up or in a photograph or in footage?” or “Will it look good on a wall?” That’s really all there is to it. I like keeping it fresh each line.

How many people are involved in finding just that balance when it comes to pushing boundaries without breaking them entirely – and how easy is it to find that balance?
We have a small crew of five people. Everyone contributes. I ask them a lot of questions: “Does this look crazy? Is this OD?” I don’t know where ideas come from. Again, if you have to force the idea, it’s probably whack. Have you ever had to eat cinnamon toast crunch without milk? Do Germans eat that trash or just us Americans?

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Will Gaynor, responsible for the Oldham/McKenna portraits, just returned with the incredible “Please” artwork… describe your relationship with Will and how you work on such a project. Does he get carte blanche?
Absolutely. He sent me the “Please” drawing unsolicited. It’s great. We usually talk for a bit then he does his thing. I try not to interject too much. Sometimes I don’t want to add anything to his stuff and he’ll have to convince me to.

Apart from Josh and Dick – such great team additions, and a sick “pro model” of sorts – who’s currently on flow for you guys? Justin and Drake?
Yeah. Drake Johnson, Justin Henry, Keegan, Justin Drysen, Danish, Kaio, Shogo, and a few others. We’re kinda stacked.

The big question: Been a good while since Gil’s “Salt Life” part… what can you announce in terms of the first proper Quasi video? How far are you? Apart from Ugly Bill/Will Rosenstock, who’s been busy filming, traveling etc.?
Will’s working on the Venue video with Gil. Paul Young has been working on something with Josh and Dick for us, and Tyler’s got a part I’m editing now. I wanted to do a big video but… in time. Too many projects going on to do a big video right now. We’re just gonna put shit out. Online, hard copies, etc. Ya never know.

Seems like you’re actually enjoying things like feeding your Insta – as opposed to just “creating content” because that’s what everybody does…
If it comes, it comes. If not, we go dark. I feel like Instagram may have peaked.

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A line like “send s.a.s.e. and 2$ for stickers” is something I remember from the nineties… do people still do that?
Ha. I didn’t think any young kids would get it, but in a week we had 10+ envelopes.

Your site also functions as an outlet for great print releases such as Stoops or Push… what’s your relationship to print?
I like print, but I certainly don’t feel like it resonates the same way it did 20 years ago. Kids don’t really care about photos anymore or maybe the feed’s got them jaded. It’s kinda fucked up either way. I like how paper smells. The internet doesn’t have a scent.

And apart from your own output with Quasi, what do you personally find exciting in current skateboarding?
Skateboarding is still hard, that’s exciting. I tried to get this scooter kid to skate and he told me it was too hard – ha! As for videos… we’re at a point where anyone, anywhere can make something worth watching. Most independent videos are better than the big budget ones. Most have better soundtracks, too.

Speaking of tunes: Can you give me a song that encapsulates the vibe of your forthcoming video releases?

How often do you think of Mother these days? And is that whole chapter, when looking back at it now, a proof that there’s a lot of truth in the line “what’s in a name”?
Yeah, I don’t think the name matters. It’s what you do with it.

One other thing: Do you happen to know why Jake aka “The Homie Pro” went from @jkjhnsn to #jkjhnsn?
Guess he got tired of it. Sometimes you gotta go dark.

What else can you announce for the remainder of the year?
In January 2017, we’re releasing a new board construction. It will revolutionize skateboarding.

Ha, thanks man!

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