Podcast by Skate Newswire
Mission Statement Episode 21: Zered Bassett
Zered Bassett’s tenure as a central figure of East Coast skateboarding spans generations. In many ways, he represents the bridge between the old New York and the new. The fact that he has endured longer than many of the brands that he’s been associated with is a testament to his dedication to his craft, and shows a resiliency that mirrors the streets where he honed it.
Originally from Cape Cod, Zered was a child prodigy who was discovered at an Invisible demo in Massachusetts as a tween. This landed him on Sixteen, and later flow for World Industries. It was during this era that Brian Brown’s brother sent Zered’s tape to Zoo York, where it landed in the hands of Jeff Pang. He was offered a spot on the team, which was accepted after getting some solid advice from Jahmal Williams.
From there, Dr. Z made the move to the Big Apple, where he was molded into the legend that he would ultimately become under the tutelage of Harold Hunter, Danny Supa, Vinny Ponte, and the rest of the O.G. Zoo heads. His progression is well-documented in RB Umali’s E.S.T. video series, and culminated in Vicious Cycle, which is still considered by many to be his magnum opus.
Zered would ultimately spend a decade as a card-carrying member of the Zoo York Institute. During this time, he turned pro, received a signature shoe from DVS, and a sponsorship from Red Bull. In addition to becoming the face of New York’s next generation, he was easily in the top-tier tax bracket for professional skaters. This afforded him luxuries, including an apartment in the city and a Cadillac Escalade. But all that glitters is not gold. And the rapper’s lifestyle is rarely built to last.
By the end of the aughts, Zoo discontinued Zered’s contract; DVS released him from its roster; and Red Bull followed suit a few years later. He was on the verge of packing up, and moving back to Cape Cod. But the New York hustle sustained him via collaborative projects with UXA and Uniqlo before landing spots on the rosters at Expedition and Converse.
Currently, Zered is comfortably chilling as a pro for Alltimers, has a couple of signature Converse shoes under his belt, and is pursing his art and photography in Brooklyn. Lee covers all of the bases of Dr. Z’s legendary story during Episode 21 of Mission Statement.
Mission Statement Episode 20: Aaron Herrington
Aaron Herrington represents a long and illustrious lineage in our culture. Escaping small-town U.S.A. to chase big-city dreams is a time-honored tradition in skateboarding. Like so many before him, Herrington gravitated to San Francisco at the tail end of the aughts to immerse himself in the downtown scene during the height of the HUF D.B.C. era.
Fresh out of high school, the Corvallis, Oregon native found himself living in weekly hotels in the Tenderloin, and working odd jobs to get by while honing his craft on the streets synonymous with names like Carroll, Hufnagel, and Busenitz. This period laid the groundwork for everything that would come after.
A couple of years later during a trip to New York, Brian DeLaTorre convinced Herrington that a pre-GX1000 San Francisco was dead, and N.Y. was where things were happening. It’s hard to leave the city, period. Even harder when someone is convincing you to stay. He made a pivotal decision at Tompkins that afternoon, which would alter his career trajectory permanently.
Once planted in N.Y., Herrington was scouted by Josh Stewart. This landed him the opening part in 'Static IV,' and an introduction to Pontus Alv. He would ultimately turn pro for Polar in 2014, a couple of months before the video dropped. 'Static' and Polar cemented Herrington’s status as an underground king. They were also the start of his ongoing collaboration with Theories of Atlantis, which has endured and evolved over the past decade.
When the streets are watching, going mainstream is inevitable. Herrington was introduced by Converse not long after turning pro; colorways and international tours ensued. The kid from Corvallis had officially arrived as one of the world’s premier professional skaters. Unfortunately, there was a dark side that came with that. Herrington has publicly addressed issues with alcoholism and mental health that he battled during those years, which resulted in him going sober at the end of 2017.
Soon after, he unveiled Chrystie NYC—his clothing imprint with Pep Kim. The brand has dropped two videos, and developed a formidable team over the past couple of years. And the design aesthetic speaks for itself. With his leg cast from an injury this past August freshly removed, Aaron dropped by the studio for a two-hour conversation with Lee that covers all of this and more during Episode 20 of Mission Statement.
Mission Statement Episode 19: Aaron Wiggs
New York’s death toll from COVID-19 was still the country’s highest at the start of May. Many hadn’t left their neighborhoods in over a month, and were wearing rubber gloves along with masks to venture out for necessities.
This was the climate in Brooklyn in which Aaron Wiggs and his friends Perry and Sasha were living when the news of George Floyd’s murder broke. It was the straw, or in this case body, that broke the proverbial camel's back.
As the nation erupted into civil unrests—the likes of which hadn’t been seen in 40 years—Aaron and crew were struggling to come up with a way to contribute in a meaningful way. Over coffee in Greenpoint’s McGolrick Park, they hatched a simple plan that would turn into something much bigger than any of them could imagine—a sidewalk sale with all of the proceeds being donated to social justice causes.
Aaron used his connections through his job at Supreme to round up as much gear as he could, and got some friends in the neighborhood to help build tables. By June, they launched what’s become a neighborhood tradition that attracts people from all five boroughs to congregate in the park; pick up some gear for cheap, and donate to a worthy cause.
The Sidewalk Sale has generated roughly $150,000 and counting thus far; all of which has been given to organizations supporting people of color and the LGBTQ community. It’s one of the more inspirational stories to emerge from the most turbulent summer on record in recent history.
And, in the middle of it all, Aaron was personally touched by the pandemic via the loss of his brother-in-law to the virus a few weeks ago. Tragic twists in triumphant tales typically only happen in the movies. But, unfortunately, this is real life. Lee gets the full story during his most poignant interview yet in Episode 19 of Mission Statement. It captures the vibe of 2020 perfectly.
Mission Statement Episode 18: Carl Aikens
If you haven’t taken notice of Carl Aikens’s rising star over the past year, then you haven’t been paying attention. The Chicago-by-way-of-Santa Clarita native has been getting a ton of coverage since transplanting to Brooklyn last summer. He linked up with Naquan Rollings of Gang Corp fame, and dropped a heavy clip that firmly planted him on our collective radar. This was followed up with his Chocolate introduction in January, and more footage in the brand’s T.O.N.Y. tour video shortly after. Aikens is clearly emerging as one of the prominent figures of skateboarding’s next generation; so we wanted to take the opportunity to document his story during his ascent. He rolled through our studio last week for an in-depth conversation with Lee that covers his history, come-up, current events, future plans, and much more. Get familiar with this legend in the making via the latest episode of Mission Statement. There’s no doubt that we’ll be seeing much more of him in the years to come.
Mission Statement Episode 17: William Strobeck
William Strobeck, known simply as Bill by those closest to him, is this generation’s Spike Jonze. In 2014, he singlehandedly changed the direction of modern skate videos with the release of “cherry”. It was the first full-length from both Strobeck and Supreme, and had a similar impact to Jonze and Mark Gonzales’s Video Days when that debuted in 1991.
“cherry” introduced the world to a group of skaters that would go on to become icons. At the time, most videos felt like blockbuster movies that were far removed from the D.I.Y. spirit that birthed them. With street life vignettes that feel like you are watching the sessions live, Strobeck brought back an aesthetic that was lost sometime during the transition from standard to high definition. It had clearly been missed.
Bill’s trajectory was foreshadowed over a decade earlier. Before Tyshawn Jones, Na-Kel Smith, and “BLESSED”, there was Anthony Pappalardo, Brian Wenning, and Photosynthesis. He cut his teeth during the Josh Kalis and Stevie Williams era at Love Park. And his footage helped craft the Sovereign Sect’s look during its golden age. With that sort of pedigree, no one should be surprised by what Strobeck would go on to accomplish after.
But Bill didn’t get to where he is today without a little bit of luck. His Alien Workshop years were the start of an ongoing collaboration with Jason Dill. This friendship has landed him in “the right place at the right time” at multiple points during his career. The connection with Dill and a breakup with a longtime girlfriend were responsible for transplanting Strobeck to New York in 2002 after a seven-year stint in Philly. And N.Y.C. would prove to be a key element in the progression of his craft.
There were still shades of the old New York during those initial post-911 years. Bill, Dill, Chloë Sevigny, Ben Cho, Leo Fitzpatrick, Dash Snow, the Razo brothers, etcetera’s gallivanting between Max Fish, Sway, and The Hole is well-documented in the archives of Patrick O’Dell’s Epicly Later’d blog. They seemed to be the heirs apparent of the Downtown scene created by Warhol, Basquiat, Futura, Jim Jarmusch, Debbie Harry, and the rest of the legendary denizens of ‘80s L.E.S. Mingling with artists, designers, actors, and fashionistas allowed Strobeck to further develop his eye for what’s cool. This influence is highly visible in his output over the past six years.
Instead of just showcasing tricks, Strobeck creates a mood through providing a glimpse into his subjects’ lifestyles. It’s more in line with what Larry Clark and Mathieu Kassovitz did with KIDS and La Haine, respectively, than a traditional skate video. And it works so seamlessly with Supreme’s branding that it's hard to imagine anyone else making its films. Currently, you’d be hard-pressed to watch one of the dozens of skate edits that are released weekly and find one that doesn’t borrow a little (or a lot) from Strobeck’s work. If those that shape the culture is the underlying theme of Mission Statement, there isn’t a more fitting guest for our 2020 season premiere.
Mission Statement Episode 16: Danny Supa
Danny Supa could be a poster boy for New York’s golden era. He’s a native of the Bronx, and came up under the tutelage of Vinny Ponte and Ryan Hickey. By the time he reached his teens, he was already skating for Zoo York. His part in Mixtape is still one of the most beloved of its era.
Like many of his contemporaries, Supa got to experience the extreme highs and lows that accompanied the skate lifestyle during those wonder years. His crowing achievement is probably being a part of the original Nike SB roster, and getting a signature Dunk colorway that is still one of the most coveted of all time.
He also earned serious coin from his other sponsors, which included Red Bull and Stussy before signing the equivalent of a 360 deal with Zoo around the time that it moved under the lucrative Ecko umbrella.
But with the money came the partying. Supa admittedly lost some years in the bottle, and burned a few bridges along the way. That journey took him from New York to Los Angeles and back while he bounced around from Zoo to Stereo, and later Boulevard before ultimately finding himself without a board with his name on it.
When his pro journey ended, Supa took up residency as an employee at the New York Diamond store; where he worked up until recently. Ready to make a change, he walked way from the world of retail to start a skate school, and pass on his decades of experience to the next generation.
Lee Smith gets an insider’s perspective on all of this and more in Episode 16 of Mission Statement.
Need more episodes, consistently
Love this podcast! My only gripe is where you been Lee? It’s been a minute.
Great guests and pedigree. Please spill more beans.
Youth of the Nation, POD
Love the pod, legendary.