Editor’s Note: Patrick O’Dell has taught us all a lot. His Epicly Later’d series for VICE is more or less a rad history book in video form of any and every influential skateboarder of our time. His nonchalant, unintrusive yet knowledgable manner of gathering information is just the perspective. He knows his shit and is a true skateboarder and artists himself — but isn’t one to throw that in your face. Mixing in archival footage and modern interview, each episode is better than the next, and the real element is always there. We recently featured Patrick and some of his photography in What Youth Issue 12 as well as the interview with Patrick you can read below in anticipation for the release this week (we hear) of his Ali Boulala episode. Which promises to be a gut wrenching and very necessary piece of the skate puzzle.
Patrick’s good friend and former assistant Jeff Fribourg caught up with him for us below, where you’ll also find some of Patrick’s personal photography.
Be sure to catch up on all the Epicly Later’d vids here. And keep an eye out this week for the episode on Ali Boulala.
Jeff Fribourg: So you’re over at Camp Woodward right now teaching classes?
Patrick O’Dell: Yeah, they do digital media so I talk to some of the campers who came here to do photography and video. I attempt to give them advice, but they end up knowing more than I do anyway.
[Laughs]. I feel like that all the time. Like, you go to show someone something and it’s like they know more than you already. Some people get so caught up in what gear they use that it prohibits them from actually making things.
You don’t worry about it too much, you just get it done. Well, we were talking with the class and it’s just good to play to your own strengths and work with people who have other strengths. You need all of the pieces to make a good final product — but you gotta realize where your own blindspots are. So I’m a little better at thinking about the story and sometimes I just kinda forget to focus on how good the shots look. So it’s good to have somebody there to operate a camera. Like when you were the cameraman you would handle the angle and I would think about the story.
Yeah, that’s really important. How’s the Ali Boulala episode looking?
I think this episode is gonna look better than any other episode. Because Kai was basically the director of photography and then I had Randy Randall [of No Age] score some music for it. So it’s gonna have a little higher production value than normal and it may even look like a different show.
Do you think the rest of the shows will be like that from now on?
Maybe, but when we were there shooting with Ali he told me his favorite skater has always been Mike Carroll. His whole wall was Mike Carroll. So I told him I did an episode on him and he was like, “You did one? Let’s watch it!” So he put it up on his flat-screen TV and we watched it and it was so crappy. It sucked! And I got sad at myself. My memory of it was as such a good episode, but the camera angles were shitty and everything was shaky and it was boring and I was like, “Oh God!” I thought that I was so much better than I actually am. I almost had an anxiety attack — like, my show sucks! But it was just because it’s slowly progressed over time and gotten better and better with each episode.
That’s funny. What else have you been working on? You doing any new music videos?
Not right now. I don’t have any music stuff coming out, but the next episode I have is Chima Ferguson. Then the episode after that is another Spanky episode. Then the episode after that is Ali Boulala. Then I met Harmony Korine and he really wants to do an episode. He keeps bringing it up, like, “Can we do that episode?” [Laughs]. So there might be a Harmony Korine episode.
How is the Spanky episode looking?
I haven’t edited it, but it was a good interview. Usually the episode would be like, somebody had a good part and you just talk about how good they were back in the day. I think now I don’t want to do episodes like that anymore. I want to tell stories that have a human interest elements to them that go beyond the greatest hits of some skate tricks.
Watch the Spanky Episode here.
So Spanky, he’s one of the smartest people. When I was watching the raw interview I was almost like, “I could put this whole interview up as an hourlong YouTube video and people would watch the whole thing because he’s so interesting. His perspective and outlook on skating is so realistic. I’m really excited for it to come out.
So what about Harmony Korine? You just did an interview with him for another magazine, right?
Yeah, for Purple. We had been talking, and he turned it into what episodes I should do. And I was like, “I should do one on you,” and he was like, “Yeah, that would be awesome!”
I realize with Kids and all that stuff that he was in skating, but I didn’t realize how much he actually knew and how much he was a part of it.
Yeah, that’s why I was stoked to do that interview. I was surprised. He was like an encyclopedia of that era of skating. He sent me all these skate photos of himself and he was pretty good. He said he was sponsored by Alien Workshop, but I think he was more like what we would consider “flow.”
[Laughs] So how long were you in Europe for?
That Ali Boulala trip was originally supposed to be 10 days, but I added extra days because I wanted to hang out with Ali. I really like him. I was like, “I just want a vacation to hang out with Ali and get an episode out of it.”
You have that pretty amazing picture of Ali from back in the day. He’s obviously way different now, right? Like there’s that one of him in the bathroom with a knife or something.
I don’t remember that specific one, but he was doing drugs, like codeine for five hours, and telling funny stories and it was almost like I had a man crush on him. I was like, I’m gonna shoot a hundred thousand photos of this kid because he’s so hilarious and cool-looking in photos.
He’s different now. He’s changed from the accident, you know? Like there’s an air of sadness about everything that happened. I think that floats over his head every second of every day. After the accident he did a lot of drugs and drinking and stuff for a couple years once he got out of jail. You have to deal with that burden of how he killed his friend. Even though drinking caused it — or was part of the problem. It’s like, how do you get sober knowing you killed somebody, but now he’s been sober for two years. He’s doing really well and doing his best to make peace with everything that happened. He’s still hilarious, fun to be around and such a cool dude, but you can also tell he’s got bad short-term memory. Like, he won’t remember what we did the day before or he won’t remember what he’s already told you.
Yeah man. He almost died. But it seems subtle because he’s still so cool and funny and has good jokes. But maybe it’s because the documentary we’re filming is a real retrospective of everything that happened and it was a cloud that hangs over him, you know? But it was cool because when we were doing the episode his honesty was really impressive.
So you just moved to Philly. It’s so funny, like, every day someone says, “You seen Patrick lately?” and I’m just like, “Patrick lives in Philly!”
It’s all right, I like LA better. It’s just a tough town — like, the opposite of LA. There’s not a lot of peace and love. You know I moved around my whole life with my family and then on my own.
It’s always really uncomfortable, but I just think it’s rewarding, like I move to some place where I don’t have any friends and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, then you find those things and it’s rewarding.
I’m really bad at this interview thing but I think there’s probably something in here they can use. [Laughs]
It’s OK! I don’t do interviews that much, and theres a part of me that can’t be dishonest because I would really like to present myself as this cool and interesting person, but I’m actually not. Like, you know how people can go into character or persona and they do it well? I don’t have one of those. I’m just like, “Whatever, I don’t know, I’m at skate camp.”
Skate camp. That’s awesome.
I was up on the mega ramp and there were all these toddlers up there with their pads on and they started airing over the mega ramp and doing gigantic backside airs on the huge quarter-pipe on the other side — like, the 15-foot quarter.
And it didn’t make any sense because when I was growing up I would see the vert guys and I would be like, “Look at these old guys, skating all old.” All I wanted to do was pressure flips on flat ground, but now it’s flipped because the older skaters are all skating street, trying crooked grinds, and these little children are doing giant 360 early grabs over this mega ramp.
I don’t even know if I could roll down that thing. I’m so afraid of shit like that. It’s like my worst nightmare.
You know what they have here, they actually have a handrail into foam. like you could try to lip slide a handrail and jump off into the foam.
[Laughs] That’s awesome! Imagine when you’re a little kid and you’re like, “I really wanna hit that handrail, but in my head it was like “Hall of Meat” — like, that’s all I could think about when I rolled up to something, but if it had a foam pit below it that would be sweet!
Yeah, but there was no part of me that wanted to try. Like, why not just try it on real street? Nutting on the rail is what I’m scared of, not the landing. So I don’t understand what the foam is for. It’s just taking away the chance of you actually landing it.
They should just get a foam rail.
Some of that stuff is cheesy but it’s still kinda sweet being here. There’s so many skaters and everyone’s having fun. I feel like it kind of goes back to the Harmony Korine interview where he’s talking about how angry he was, and I think I was angry because skateboard culture was so difficult back then. When I was skating it was so hostile. The ‘90s were so hostile, it was like there was a skate uniform and everyone was a dick.
I’m down for whatever as long as people are having fun.
It’s hard when the kids are good, but it made me wanna come here longer, like, “Man, I should just train and get good at skating again.” But I’m too busy working on stuff so I don’t usually have time to just try tricks.
When I was a kid I was always like, “Why did that guy stop skating?! I don’t get it! He was so good!” But then it’s like once you get a job and a girlfriend you’re just like,“Yeah.”
It’s pretty tough because whenever we’re around something fun to skate I’ll skate constantly. It’s tough when you have a career though, but I always skate, I never quit. It’s always weird when people make that declaration like, “I quit skating!” It’s like, “Why don’t you just skate less?” It’s just such a weird declaration, the declaration of quitting.
[Laughing] OK, I gotta run to The Echo, but thanks for the phone call.
Cool, give me a call later and email me any new music if you have albums coming out or anything.
Yeah. I’ll send you some of the songs I’ve been recording from this new band I’m in called Number.
I unfollowed Froth. Those guys are haters, I’m over it. Nah, I like them, I’m fucking around.