Fred Gall Part 2: The Low Life Interview

Continued from Part 1

What are some of the challenges you have for kids when you're giving out product?
The hot sauce challenge is the best one. You know, these kids are ruthless, man. When I grew up, it wasn't like that. They just want free this, free that, free everything and that's fine. But, if you're the quiet kid in the corner, and you don't say nothing, I'm going to go right up and I'm going to give you something, because you're polite and not rude about it. Some of these kids have no manners, so I'm like, "Okay, here. If you can drink this whole thing of hot sauce then you're in. You can get free wheels or whatever it is." We'll make up all kinds of challenges. The skate trivia one is getting kind of old. The board toss races are the s--t. You gotta be careful, though. People will get hurt at those things. It can get rough and I don't wanna see any little kids get trampled. But, it happens every demo, just because people get so crazy because of the free product. Whenever that happens, I try to find the kid that got hurt and give him a bunch of free product. Last time, a little girl got trampled and her head was bleeding. I was like, "Oh my God, man." I found the girl and the mom and I was like, "Here, we're really sorry," and gave them some stuff. Most of the time they walk away with a smile, hopefully.

There's always a grown man in there somehow, too.
Yeah, like a dad or some s**t, fighting a 10-year-old.

Just absolutely no shame. Speaking of getting hurt, I heard you jacked you shoulder on the last tour.
Yeah, it's still jacked up. I didn't really get it fixed. I dislocated it twice. I tore some stuff in there, too. I've been rocking a sling and it's pretty much been getting better.

You ended up staying on the whole trip, right?

Most people would just go home. What did you do?
I stayed on and skated with it, with the sling.

Reminds me of that Danny Way footage or something.

I mean...I'm not going to a hospital unless I'm definitely, definitely in need, you know? I mean, I'm sore right now. I actually painted the ramp last night, so I can still feel it's not good yet.

That's rough. Sometimes you just got to stick it out.
Yeah, just let it heal on it's own.

I hear you make up a lot of funny nicknames for the younger generation of kids you travel with. Could you tell me about Ben Raybourns'?
"The Doctor?" Yeah, dude, these guys are young. When I was growing up, there was always an older dude who'd try to steer me right or give me advice. They'd also give out nicknames and so now I have the chance to do that. I call him Dr. Raybourn, because he kind of looks like some kind of mad doctor or something—like a mad scientist. Then, he's so good on a skateboard, that he doctors the tranny up.

He's got those frames that look like doctor's classes from the '60s or something.
Yeah, exactly.

What about the nickname you gave Ryan Lay?
Oh, his was easy to come up with, because his style on a skateboard—there are very few that have as much power. He has pop on a skateboard that's beyond the normal human, so I named him the "Bionic Man," because he has that pop that maybe Reese Forbes, the Donger or a few other people have, but he's this skinny little dude. That guy can ollie with bionic power, so that's how it came about.

Whenever I see footage of him, he looks really frail—like a waif-y teenager. But, he skates with a strong style.
Yeah, he's definitely the "Bionic Man," 'cause he holds it down.

You go on a lot of tours, but one of the ones you went on that was really unique was Cliché's Gypsy Tour. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
The Gypsy Tour was awesome, man. It was, like, two weeks in the south of Spain, with all the Cliché guys, who are all French, Spanish and Portuguese. Joey Brezinski's pretty much the only other American, but we could all communicate pretty well. But, it was awesome, though—sleeping outside, limited amount of money per day. It was a challenge, you know?

What were some of the things you did to get by?
We got 10 Euros a day and when you're out there, 10 Euros is like five dollars here. It ain't s**t. I mean, you can eat, but if you want to eat good and drink...I basically took my 10 Euros bought a baguette, a nice block of cheese, a water and a cheap bottle of red wine, which is good wine, and that was the whole 10 wiped out. That's doin' good. But, some days, I would go into the supermarket and steal everything I could get my hands on, so the whole team would be eating pretty good that night.

That's where those skills really come in handy.
For sure. No one knew about tying your shoelace tight around your pant leg. I was like, "Y'all don't know about this?" You just tie your shoelace and open up your zipper and shop. I'm not condoning it. If you get busted, you gotta face the consequences, but these were dire circumstance on that trip. Lucas Piug—he was a really good thief, too. Me and him were the top thieves on that trip. I think I got him, though. I'd come out with a dozen or so hot dogs and I was like, "Oh, you guys still hungry? Eat these," and they'd be like, "What the f**k? Where'd you get this?" A baguette and cheese...you can live off that all day, but it gets old after two weeks.

Some of the dudes actually left the trip, right? Like, they couldn't really hang with the tour?
JB Gillet left early last year, because some people just can't hang with that s**t. It's pretty rough. You're sleeping outside. Dudes who are used to nice hotels and all that, it can get to you real quick. It's pretty much like being homeless on a skateboard trip. You just gotta fend for yourself. If you've got extra skate product, you can sell it, but there's no ATM action for you. You gotta just make it happen, however you can. Some guys bailed out early, but for the most part, most guys hung in there.

One thing I've noticed—and I noticed it from the Gypsy Tour footage—is that you have an inverse relationship with being hung over and skating well. Like, the worse you feel being hungover, the better you'll skate. So, are there other days where you're not hungover and you can barely skate?
For sure. There are days where I try not to drink purposely for a couple of days, but if you drink a lot in general, you might feel worse, unless you take a break off that's like two weeks long, you know? Then, you'll feel great and be able to skate great. Sometimes when I'm hungover, I feel great on my board. I mean, you don't really think about it. You just get into what you gotta do and there's no hesitation. Like, there's still some energy left over from the night before, you know? It's a weird thing.

So, you're a David Allen Coe fan. Has the Mona Lisa really lost her smile?
You could say I'm a fan. Sometimes...sometimes the smile will be gone for days. But, naw...I try to deal with every situation the best I can, man. Hungover, bummed out, hurt—whatever you gotta do—just keep it positive and do your job. Get it over with and you can cry later, you know? It's funny, I'm actually working right now. You wouldn't believe what I'm doing right now.

What are you doing?
Like I said, we own a screenprinting business adn we're printing those democratic signs for November 3rd—for the voting day. We have to do a thousand of them. You print them quick and then you have to have space to dry them, so I'm just the middle man relaying the wet posters upstairs to where they can dry.

That's pretty funny. I don't think anyone would ever expect you'd be printing democratic voting posters for November 3rd.
Nah, right?

I actually think of you as one of the most recognizable Northeast skaters. So another place I'd never think to associate you with is Burnside. How did you get in the Burnside gang, "The Nobodies?"
Yeah, those are all the guys who build all them parks. They're gnarly. I don't know. I tend to meet up with these gnarly dudes...some people are scared and they don't even hang out with these guys, because they're the real deal. But, every time I go, I just chill with them and skate all night, so they're down for me, I guess. I'm in "The Nobodies." It's not easy to get into, because they pretty much hate everybody. It's just being a real person with them, pretty much. It a very intimidating crew to be around, for the most part, but I just know how to handle myself. Nothin' a bottle of Jack can't cure.

So, you got a new shoe coming out, right? What's it called and where'd the idea for the name come about?
It's gonna be called the "Lowlife." First of all, I'm doing a low shoe, because my last one was a 3/4 and it was kind of high. Then, [Ipath Team Manager] Dave was just like, "We need a name for your low shoe," and I was feeling kind of low, so I was just like, "What do you think about 'The Lowlifes?'" And, he was like, all right man. I really like it and so does everyone else. I'm surprised, for all the low cut shoes that are out, I'm surprised nobody used that. I guess you gotta get low to figure it out and I was at a real low level that day.

You guys have an Ipath promo coming out now, right?
Yep. It's actually out. I just got a whole box of them today. It's a shop promo.

Do you have a part in it?
We all have parts, but it's more like intro footage and then scattered footage throughout it. Everybody has a decent amount of stuff. It's like "Eastern Exposure," you know, how they have a mix of footage and it's like different spots, same dudes? It's like that. You can tell who's who. It's a good video. It worked out good. It's like a montage with little sections of each person.

What about Habitat? Do you guys have anything coming out soon?
Yeah, our last video, Inhabitants, we worked on that forever and we're really proud of it, but when it came out we got really f**ked because of the music rights, so we had to take it off the shelf. So, we're gonna do a new video for some of the new guys that are on and then they're gonna take all the Inhabitants footage and put new music over it. It'll be the same footage, different music. It'll be out around March or so.

I didn't know that.
Yeah, I actually used that Black Sabbath song. That was one of them that caused the problem.

It sucks. You think the Osbournes know enough people in skateboarding that they would let it ride. But, I guess that's not how it happens.
I wish it was like that, but it really comes down to lawyers and all that stuff.

Makes sense. So, you guys are going to put out a shorter video with "Inhabitants" re-editted?
I couldn't tell you if it will be short or long, because we still have a lot of filming to do, but there are a lot of newer guys who are gonna have full parts and then some of us won't have that much footage, but we'll have parts. Then, the DVD will have all kinds of bonus s**t, which will include the old video with different music.

Cool. It must be rad to have such good sponsors after so many years.

Yeah, I can't thank my sponsors enough—Habitat, Ipath, Innes, Independent, NJ Skateshop, Domestics. Thanks to Dave Smith.

We've all seen some harsh slams you've taken but you've lasted a long time, putting out better and better footage. So, what's you're key to longevity?
I don't know. I've died a thousand times, but I'm still alive.