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JFA Celebrates 30 Years of Skate Punk

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At that time, that was a pretty new concept in Phoenix.

"Surf punks? We're not. Skateboard? We do." — "Beach Blanket Bongout"

Pendleton: Everybody skated. It was all about skating. It's all about really loud, big, fast guitars. When you look at the Dogtown era, all those guys listened to Aerosmith and Ted Nugent, because that was the biggest, loudest guitar you could find. When the Sex Pistols and Ramones came out, it kind of flipped overnight. Because, Ted Nugent was not the gnarliest thing anymore. Surfing is about this peaceful, flowing thing. [Skating] is full-on aggression, right?

Brannon: [Phoenix has] great skate terrain: the ditches, the banks, pipes, all the empty swimming pools that would pop up when the snowbirds kicked the bucket.

Neil Hounchell (drummer, Soylent Green): The type of punk that came out of Phoenix is a direct result of that skating mentality — hard and fast. One time, there was a pool over on Seventh Street and Missouri, and TSOL came out from Los Angeles. I remember the property owner came out with a gun, and you'd swear the lights flicked on and the cockroaches just — fssss— took off as fast as we could. It scared the Jesus out of us.

Rob Locker (AZPX Records and Skateboards): I have skated more backyard pools, full pipes, ditches, ramps, street spots, and crazy homemade shit than anyone really cares to hear about.

Cornelius: The one thing we did have was with other skate-rock bands, bands that said they were skate rock. We were like, "Do you skate or don't you skate?" The first time we went to Texas, and we had never played with the Big Boys. We heard they were a big skate band. [They asked us to skate] and we were like, "They really skate," and we were all stoked [laughs]. They weren't one of the bands just talking the talk.

Oh, yeah, there were bands that would say they skated, but they didn't really skate. The most famous thing of that was the Henry Rollins ad for Independent Trucks, and he's like, "Yeah, I ride 'em," and he's riding the skateboard, but no one has ever seen him skateboard before or since.

Sversvold: We actually put out the quote-unquote JFA challenge in, I believe, our first Thrasher interview. We called out anybody who [said they skated]. The Big Boys, The Necros — [they] were always good. They skated with us. I believe Ian [MacKaye] from Minor Threat skated with us. Henry Rollins actually skated a little bit back then. We met him three weeks into joining Black Flag, and he was just a kid. The one that we had the big problem with was Suicidal Tendencies. Mike Muir [vocalist, Suicidal Tendencies], in the video for "Institutionalized," they got Natas Kaupas — he was basically the stunt double for Mike.

He was calling Brian and making death threats: "We're gonna send a bunch of guys to your show and eff you up" and all this stuff. It was pretty stupid. Mike Muir's older brother later became Brian's roommate in San Francisco, when Brian worked for Thrasher; he's the owner of Dogtown Skates. I met [Muir] a couple times, and he seemed like a [good] guy, but he was a pretty rich kid. He didn't skate, and we called him on it, and he got pretty insulted: "You saying I can't do this?" Well, then come skate with us. And he didn't. We just wanted who [were] what they claimed to be — very simple. What's the worst that could happen? You go skating and have fun.


Brannon: Don and I both started writing separate stories for Thrasher [and became] regular contributors. They would assign me to write about some skate contest, and the story would be like: "Well, the skate contest sucked, so we went and skated this pool. There are a bunch of clowns walking around in neon helmets and stuff — they look like kooks to me, the ramp sucks — so we hit this pool and it was rad. Christian [Hasoi], Salba [Steve Alba], Tony Alva, we had a rap session.

Cornelius: I did a tiny bit [of work for Thrasher]. [Brian and I rented a plane with his pilot friend] and we flew over Phoenix looking for empty pools, taking pictures of the potential spots and chasing them down later, and skating the empty pools [laughs]. While we were doing that, we got chased by a police helicopter. We were flying too low, and the police helicopter came by and kind of shooed us out of the area. That was written up in Thrasher, in '83.

Pendleton: In '84, I started writing tour diaries [for Thrasher]. It was like the whole country. It was like the Warped Tour before there was a Warped Tour. We could go to New Mexico, Texas, all through the South, up through New York. Everywhere we went, there would be these skater kids.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.