“I got in a fucking fender bender yesterday,” Marc Johnson says after we finally connected after playing one-sided phone tag for a day. He was in the middle of dealing with the accident when we were first scheduled to talk. His body is fine. His car is mostly fine. “Just the front end is torn up and shit,” he says off-hand, “but whatever. It’s all good. Fuck it.”
And with that, off we went on a wild 30-minute ride. Marc has never been one to mince his words, so we’re not going to do it for him. This interview goes long and we kept his words intact. Raw and passionate. Just like MJ’s nearly 25-year pro skateboarding career. If you always wanted to know the truth behind his infamous Jenkem interview, what company ruined skateboarding, his current feelings for Lakai after a much publicized split, and how stoked he is on being with adidas Skateboarding, than pour yourself a hot brew, sit down, and dive right in.
So, it’s 10am. How many coffees so far?
Marc Johnson: Two. I have a Starbucks around the corner so I just go there. It won’t be the last time I go today either.
So you’re on the 3 to 4 a day program.
Yeah I get sparked in the morning and then it carries me over until 7 at night. So I go over there then and get a whole different crew. It’s so weird they know me in the drivethru and they know me at the counter. Everyday, “Hey what’s up Marc. How you doing?” and I’m like “Yeah I’m good.”
Over the years you’ve become one of the go to guys for getting a great heart felt interview about how much skateboarding means to you. Do you ever feel pressure to get emotional over skateboarding when speaking about it now after so many strong performances?
Umm. You say performances as if that’s like acting?
No I mean it like, you give a more in-depth, honest interview than an average skateboarder.
Yeah because you know what, if somebody asks me a question I tell the truth based on what I know at that given time. You know that Jenkem interview, I’m still getting raked across the coals for one line. And that fucking dude Ian (Michna) kept trying to get me to say ‘Nike.’ I told him, Dude I’m not going to say Nike for your questions. I’ll say “big footwear brand” or whatever, but I’m not saying Nike. He kept trying to get me to say it. He had an ulterior motive for wanting me – of all people – to say ‘Nike” and I fucking refused. I know tons of people that have great lives because they skate for Nike now. I’m not going to take a shit on friends of mine who have a good life now because they ride for them because you want someone to take a shit on Nike for you. Nobody gives a fuck about what you say, so you want to get someone like me to say it for you and I’m not going to fucking do that dude.
I’ll say “big footwear brand” and so people that read that don’t know that I was talking about Nike because I wouldn’t say their name. But now they’re raking me across the coals because they think that I meant Adidas, or New Balance, or Converse, or whatever. They don’t know the story behind that fucking interview.
The stuff that I said in that fucking interview was in the beginning of 2013 and that’s before I know all of the dirty shit Lakai was doing. So I gave an honest interview based on the information that was available to me at that time. And now I’m not going to give an interview, now that I know all of the fucking dirty shit that they fucking did to other people and me in the following years. Yeah, fuck those people seriously. Fuck those people and I’m glad that their piece of shit shoe company took a nose dive. Because they are piece of shit people. Yeah.
That was one of my favorite interviews because you put it all out there. I thought it was cool, yeah you said that one sentence that everyone always goes back to, but immediately followed it up with 100 sentences saying exactly why skateboarders should ride for companies that support what they want to do and than you ended up on adidas years later.
Yeah. It’s that social media mentality now where you’ll write a whole paragraph and motherfuckers will sit and read every fucking word and they’ll pick out one word or sentence and then they will fucking grill you for it. That’s what the social media mentality breeds now. They’ll look at your photo you posted and if they can’t find anything in the foreground to talk shit about they will pull something out of the background. Like somebody’s shoe out of the background and say, “Dude, what’s up with that thing in your post? What’s up with you promoting that?”
Those people (companies) get those those alerts or whatever. Then they’ll come after me about that. Because motherfuckers on social media are just starting shit all day long because their lives have no meaning at all. You don’t see pro skateboarders or sponsored amateurs ever doing that shit.
Point being. I don’t give a performance. I just say what the fucking truth is. And that’s revolutionary now or some bullshit. I don’t know.
They’re scared of the truth out there now.
Yeah and I’m telling motherfuckers the truth on Instagram now where I’m just like, “Dude, newsflash. Everybody that works at adidas Skateboarding skates. Every day. They treat me 1000x better than my previous shoe sponsor did. I get to travel the world. They keep a roof over my head and food in my mouth.” Are you kidding me? People just don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. If I’m not going to say some shit that doesn’t mean anything, I’m not going to say anything at all. So if you ask me a fucking question don’t you want the truth? Or do you want a bunch of vanilla bullshit? “Aw dude everything’s rad bro yeah so stoked bro!” One of those fucking interviews? Nobody that reads that shit believes it anyways. Shut the fuck up. No you’re not.
Anyway. Tangent over.
Do you still consider yourself a fan of skateboarding and keep up to date with everything as much as you would have back in the day?
I didn’t follow it back in the day. What time period are you talking about?
I mean watching people’s parts and knowing what’s happening in the Industry.
No. Not at all. I don’t follow it. I feel like the reason I don’t follow it is because of social media. Because of Instagram. I used to follow it when there’d be a new video every couple months or something. Or an Alien video would come out and I’d go buy the DVD. Or emerica’s ‘Stay Gold’ I went and bought the DVD. So I used to keep up with that. When social media bottlenecked into this footage dump, I kept up with it for a little bit. I didn’t keep up with it at all until last September. For some reason in September 2017 I dove in head first on the daily, multiple check-in’s. By the time I got out in November I was just fucking depressed. That’s what it is designed to do. My son is depressed right now because he looks at social media too much and I’m telling him, “Dude just get off of that shit.” It makes you feel bad about what you’re not doing in life so far. You see this shit all day long and you fucking think that you should be doing that stuff. And that happens to grown fucking men. It happens to people I know now. Grown men who have deep histories in skateboarding are really fucking insecure now because of social media. That’s why I do not look at social media anymore. I post something and then I respond to everyone on that post and that’s it. I post and dip. Because I know what that shit does to people. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. I’ve seen people that are obsessed with it. I’m not naming any names, but a motherfucker posted a trick every day for 240 days. And guess what? It didn’t make him any more money. It didn’t do anything for him and when it was over, when he finally gave up he had nothing to show for it, but a video part full of clips that nobody saw because it was on The Berrics. And nobody goes to The Berrics.
Yeah, not anymore. So he had a video part full of clips that he had sprinkled for 240 days and he picked out X amount and made a video part out of it and nobody saw it. And it didn’t make his life any better. I can’t do social media because, I tried it for two months and it was fucking gnarly and I’m not going to do that to myself again.
I don’t keep up. I keep up with like, Austyn Gillette put a part out. I keep up with that. I keep up with things that I care about.
Do you think it’s making the herd mentality worse in skateboarding or has that always been there and it’s just showing it in a different light?
You know what. The crazy thing about this is that I think it was always there, but people weren’t connected. Before the Internet, people weren’t connected. I don’t think it existed before the Internet and then when the Internet became popular and you had these things called message boards and chat rooms. Like Transworld had the message board in like 2000-2001, this was before the SLAP message boards and who knows what else. People started realizing they were connected and started sharing information and shoot a fucking virus into that thing and watch it mutate and give it 20 fucking years and watch that shit mutate into what it is now. Dude it is gnarly now. I heard that people’s careers have been ruined from a message board. What the fuck is that about?
Back in the Hot Chocolate video – you said that skateboarding was, “ideas put into action.” and “If you can think of it you can do it on a skateboard.” Do you think skating is more of a thinking mans sport rather than a jock/athletic endeavor?
I’d say now, because the jocks are celebrated, now it is probably 50/50. The jock mentality is; watch what other people do, copy it, and then get it wired. Where the thinking man is the other 50% who think of a trick, fucking do it, and then they are moving on. They’re onto some new shit. Where the jock skaters, they don’t think for themselves. They just watch what other creative people do. And then say, “Oh I’ve never thought about that before, let me learn that.”
It is a thinking mans sport. The thing is, jocks have to think to do tricks, but they are not exactly super creative that I know of. The creative people are just known for being creative. Like Rodney Mullen. Mark Gonzales. There are dudes that are known for being really innovative and they are still known for that and that type of creativity isn’t seen in anybody that you would categorize as as jock or have that jock mentality. Would you agree with that?
That makes sense.
And then there’s the other dudes that are expressing something really amazing. I mean, think about it like this, how much is really left to innovate? You ever lurked on Instagram and seen some of the crazy tricks in your explore page?
Yeah and it’s one of those things where you can watch a million of those weird tech Instagram tricks from some kid and it looks like garbage, but it takes a certain skater to do a trick and legitimize it. He did it right. Not some quad dolphin flip or something.
Dude. Some of the shit you see on the explore page. I just remember some of the crazy shit. You get the impression from their Instagram that they are just fucking amazing, but their Instagram is just tricks in skateparks. And you’re just like, “Dude, what the fuck?” You’re gnarly, but the thing is that kid goes to the skatepark every day and has a friend film him in that park. And they are all like this and all almost the same. He has a friend film at the skatepark doing some fucked up trick and once you’ve seen enough of that shit you’re like, “What in the fuck is going on out there?” These motherfuckers are doing the craziest shit at skateparks and you never see them in the streets, ever.
I’d say it’s like, the thinking man/creative guy, and I’d put you in that category as well with Gonz and Rodney, you’re the ones that have 10,20,30 years of a career in skateboarding where with some of the others its a quick flash and then you never hear from them again.
Yeah the average pro career in the nineties was two years.
And you went pro in ‘94 right?
I got sponsored in ‘94 and went pro in ‘94. Got sponsored in January and they wanted me to turn pro at the end of the summer and I said, no. But I turned pro in November at this contest and I got back from that contest and called those guys and was like, “I do not deserve to be pro. This is insane. These guys are doing the gnarliest shit every try in these contest runs and I couldn’t. I’m not that good. I can film tricks, but I am not that good, yet.”
And they were just like whatever. So, alright, if you want to pay me $300/month than fine its on you. That shit was fucking amazing.
I’ve always wanted to ask you, I remember hearing about 10-years ago how you moved out to the mountains and I had this vision of you being this secluded hermit, so far removed from the skateboard scene with like dirt roads and everything. I don’t know if that’s at all on the mark, but it always stuck in my mind what a unique situation that sounded like.
Exactly! Exactly on the mark. And that’s, when you said, “paid attention to skateboard media like you did before,” I did not pay attention up there. I would watch new videos when they would come out and that’s it. I wasn’t on the Internet. I wasn’t nothing for about five years straight. I had that house for eight years and I was there for five years full time and when I say I didn’t pay attention to shit, I mean I didn’t pay attention to shit. I wasn’t exactly living…, I was a hermit, but I wasn’t living a righteous life. If that makes any sense.
But you didn’t drop out of skateboarding or become unproductive because wasn’t this while you were filming for ‘Fully Flared’?
Yeah we started filming for ‘Fully Flared’ and I moved up to the mountains… we worked on that shit for like four years. We started filming for ‘Fully Flared’ in like 2004 and I moved up to the mountains a year later. So like 2005 and we still had another fucking three years to film, so when I was living up there what I was doing was checking out, and then going on all these crazy trips. Then I would get home and I would check out.
It seemed like it had a great effect on your creativity and output on skateboarding because it led to your ‘Fully Flared’ part.
Yeah. When I would go home, I wouldn’t look at a magazine, I wouldn’t do shit. My board was in a closet in my room that was a walk-in closet with all these shelves. I’d call it the skate shop closet, but I’d put my board in there and wouldn’t even look at it. So the next time we went on a trip I hadn’t skated since the last trip and it was like letting me loose. You know what I mean? I was able to get sparked again, instead of being burnt. Burn out could have been totally fucking real, but I would check out. I lasted the whole video by just checking out when I could.
But you’re right. Dude that video part is like 8-minutes long and I had like 25-minutes of footage. It was very fucking productive. We travelled so much and I skated so much and I don’t know what the fuck happened to the rest of that footage, but there is a lot more footage. It was gnarly, but it was good.
It led to a three song, closing part that a lot of people now look at as the ‘last great part’ in skateboarding before the Internet storm took over and we started getting crumbs everyday. Do you have any comment on where that stands or how skate media went downhill starting in ‘09?
You know what, it did start in ‘09. Or I noticed it in ‘09. I don’t know when it fucking started, but in ‘09 I moved to Marina Del Rey from the mountains into a little apartment next to Chris Roberts and I got a laptop. And dude, I started getting on the Internet and checking in. Because I hadn’t paid attention to it since, at some point in ‘Fully Flared.’ When I say I didn’t skate or do anything for the next two years. Dude, I didn’t touch a fucking skateboard for two years after ‘Fully Flared.’ So when I checked back-in in 2009; I bought a laptop at the Santa Monica promenade, got home, got my Internet connection, and I started going in. What’s going on in skating? What’s going on at Transworld? And I just saw, “SK8 Mafia Sundays” and “Blind Sunday Fundays” and “60 seconds of Jimmy” and every website had their version of some check-in thing with some dude and I was just like, “What the fuck is this?”
And I knew. “Shit, this is going to be bad. This is going to be really, really bad, I think for skateboarding as a whole.” Being given videos every other day of the week on these websites. This is going to fuck up board brands. Every fucking board brand is going to take a shit now because they aren’t going to be able to keep up with this ‘Blind skateboards horse shit’ that they are dumping on you everyday. I’m not saying that either of those teams are mediocre, but I’m sorry the shit that you film during the week, every week, cannot be as amazing as a skate video. These motherfuckers are dropping crumbs on you every single week. I remember watching and thinking they are ruining skateboarding. But Bill Weiss doesn’t give a fuck. That dude does not give a fuck. Clearly if he gave a fuck he wouldn’t have done what he did to Blind at all. He ruined Blind. He fucking ruined it.
Does this overload of filler content take any of the motivation out of putting your heart and soul into a new video part?
Oh absolutely. I’ve been told personally that video parts are dead, so don’t waste my time. You know, I still believe that there is a way to do it, but a straight video part? It gets fucking flushed down the toilet now. It’s up for three days and then gets buried under a bunch of weird shit. And we’ve all seen amazing video parts, dudes that spend three years of their lives filming these parts and then it’s flushed after three days. I wanted to do a video part and I was told, “Don’t waste your time. Do what you feel you want to do, but we don’t need a full part. We’re not asking you for that, if you want to do that than cool. But we’re not asking you for that because video parts just don’t carry the same weight as they used to. When we do release video parts, entire skate videos are flushed down the toilet and individual parts are chopped up and flushed down the toilet and there’s something new the next day. So with that in mind don’t worry about it. Film what you want to film and do this interesting project that you want to do, but don’t worry about a straight two years of grueling skate video part, we’re not asking for that.”
Does that make it easier in a way because you don’t have to put that massive effort in?
It’s not that it’s easier. Doing what I’m familiar with seems like the easiest thing. I’ve been in 37 videos and I’ve had like 20 full video parts. Clearly I know how to do that. The hard part is in knowing how to do that, the hard part is getting it fucking done, but if you’re not going to get it done the same way for Yeah, Right and Pretty Sweet and Fully Flared and a little bit of Hot Chocolate and whatever videos before that. Full video parts don’t carry the same weight. They see so much of it every single day that they don’t care anymore. Austyn’s part was fucking gnarly and is anybody talking about that shit anymore? Nope.
That part was sick.
It was fucking amazing. It’s all the tricks that you wish you could do. The fucking half-cab flip on LA High? Go to that spot and look at that thing and be like, “How the fuck did you roll up fakie?” It’s fucking gnarly and nobody is talking about that video part now. If he had put that part out in 2005 that part would be considered one of the gnarliest parts of all time.
And guess who’s video part is considered one of the gnarliest of all time? Dylan Rieder, Gravis! Talk about the last great skate video part. The fucking music, everything. That was the last great skate video ever. It was fucking perfect.
That’s the truth. So now that you’re building house with Business & Company are you going to play the game or find another way or getting the brand out there?
It is a game and I’m going to play it, I’m just not going to play by the rules. Did you see that video on Thrasher?
Yeah I did.
It’s so funny some of the comments about that. There’s people that get it and appreciate it and then there’s like two people that had to go on there and say something fucking lame. And it’s funny what people chose out of a whole video that they decide to bitch about. It’s pretty amazing what out of all that stuff, like how you read a whole paragraph and a person picks out one word to just rail on you about.
Speaking to this real quick, I got this one time. I posted a photo of a painting that a friend of mine did and in the painting there was a black handprint on a wall. The whole photo was pretty sick and there was a black handprint on a white wall as part of it. I put a black handprint in the caption and somebody said, “What’s up with the black handprint? That’s kinda racist.”
I read that and was like, ‘Dude, look at the photo.’ There’s a black handprint on the wall, yeah I chose the black handprint for the fucking black handprint. What are you talking about? It proves my point right there. Motherfuckers will pick anything out that they can talk shit about, criticize you about and they’ll go so far as to make shit up now. And tell you that your fucking post is about something it’s not about at all so that they can have something to complain about.
Saves them time from having to read it all, they can just get offended by the first thing they see and then turn off.
Yeah. Two lines in, you pick a word out and claim, “That’s fucking racist.” and it’s like no, read the whole thing, look at the photo. And then they don’t respond. They just want attention. And the people that talk the most shit, you click on their page and they’re always fucking private.
Going back to the current 90’s revival, coming from somebody that grew up skating through it, what are your thoughts on all those trends coming back around?
Like I said I haven’t been paying too much attention to Instagram. What’s crazy is everybody else is paying attention to it. It’s become this really important thing to a lot of people, so the only way that I can now get fresh eyes on skateboarding is to not pay attention to anything on Instagram. I can post and I can dip. I can’t look at it because that is the only way that you can have fucking clear eyes. It’s so sad, but that’s what you have to do. I don’t know anything about a 90’s revival.
– Interview by Board Rap