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Monday, February 2, 2009
Updated: February 26, 6:44 PM ET
Ed Templeton

Toy Machine's short-run packaging of Diamond Wizard. There's no telling whether the face is a minion or the dark lord himself.

About ten years ago (yes, ten years), Toy Machine released a series of board graphics, one of which had been scrawled with the face of a sinister man colored a satanic red. His eyes, possessed and pupil-less as though they had rolled into his skull, had a yellow tint like the golden edge of hell fire or a slivered glare of sunlight through a crack in his underground lair. Underneath those eyes read the name "Diamond Wizard".

Like most skateboarders, few of us would remember the "Diamond Wizard" graphics unless Sean Cliver wrote a second volume of Disposable or someone hung the boards on the wall in a nearby skateboard shop. However, there was a four-song cassette tape that came with each board—wrapped in a sleeve scribbled with that same evil face—that many friends and acquaintances remember vaguely as the bringer of a hauntingly hilarious music themed somewhere between black metal and fantasy metal (click here to jog your memory or get initiated; apparently some fan set up a Myspace tribute page a few years back). Any serious listener would quickly write it off as unfinished, maybe annoying, but to anyone with a sense of humor, it was such an over-the-top attempt to be evil, it made you smile every time.

I can't speak for all skateboarders, but whenever I brought the nameless band up in search of who penned the songs, almost every skater I knew remembered hearing the Casio keyboard, the heavy guitar and the scratchy lyrics about underworld lairs, minions and frightening forests ruled by the dark overlord, Diamond Wizard. "I think my homie had that tape," they would say. Or, "That sh*t was hilarious…it was like, 'YOU ARE THE MINION, YOU ARE THE MINION!'"

I found the idea of including this four-song gem in each board so puzzling that the last time I thought about it, the questions came pouring out: Did the music inspire the graphics or did the graphics inspire the music? Did Ed Templeton do the art or did someone else? What was the idea behind the whole project? Who played the music? Where could I find a tape?

So, I went to the best source I had, Ed Templeton, to find out about the Diamond Wizard a decade later.—Joshua Brooks

To read the Interview
with Ed Templeton, click below.

How did you hear about Diamond Wizard?
I had asked the artist Chris Johanson to do a series of graphics for Toy Machine. He said he would, but he wanted to produce a cassette tape to be shrink wrapped with each board—sort of a soundtrack to the artwork he was going to make. So I said, "Yeah, that sounds great!"

Who else was behind Diamond Wizard?
Well, all I really know is that it was Chris Johanson. He has been in a bunch of bands. One was called "Tina. Age Thirteen." Another was called "Deep Throats." I think there were more. So possibly it was people from those bands who played the instruments along with Chris. It was one of his concepts, and I'm not sure if there was really a band operating by that name, or if he did those songs just for the board series. I am leaning toward the latter. I think it was a side project done just for the boards, although the boards and music both came from some ongoing theme in his head at that time.

The music seems really tongue and cheek.
I think it was a side project. The tongue in cheek aspect of it is the key to understanding Chris. He creates scenes and acts out the silliness of them to communicate. I think it was a response to the rising "Dark Metal" at that time, but there is also a dose of reverence for it too, because it is quite good. Comedy is the best way. But I could be wrong, it could also quite possibly be just a completely made up idea. I am certain that the board series, by chance, came at the very moment he was making these songs for fun and entertainment. I asked him at the perfect time for him to suggest making a tape, and it was perfect for us because were doing stuff like that.

How did Toy Machine end up backing the production of their EP tape and what year was it released?
I am gonna guess-timate it came out in 1998, 99. It was at the end of cassette tapes, but people still used them. Not as much now. If we did it now, although funny, no one would be able to listen to it! We just sourced out a place that could to it. Chris made the cassette artwork and sent the music master down, and we went for it.

What was the total production number?
I would say no more than 1000, maybe it was more like 500, or 650…I would have to ask someone at Tum-Yeto to be sure


Did the band ask you to do the art work or did you offer your services?
No, Chris did the artwork for the cover. It was a two or three color thing, black on a red background with yellow eyes as I remember. Sadly I don't have one either! I ran out and then called Tum-Yeto asking for some and they were gone. Chris did it all. Back then I would ask an artist to do a series and make whatever they wanted. No holds barred.

How would you describe their music to the uninitiated?
The music is dark journey into a black forest in search of the Dark One, Diamond Wizard that lives in an underworld lair. It is a fast-paced ride, filled with darkness and bad geovernance. The Dark Lord controls his minions with an iron grip, and your head will end up on a post if you betray him.

Could you explain the story of how the music was salvaged and who salvaged it?
It was funny because you would think that I saved a tape, but like I said, somehow I didn't. Lori D called me up one day and asked me for a copy. I told her that I didn't even have one, but if she found one to let me know. A few days later I got an e-mail with MP3's of the songs. I was so stoked! Now I distribute the songs via iPod or e-mail to friends. I don't know where she found them. Probably a friend of hers had transferred them.

Any hope of a Diamond Wizard reformation? Or, are we going to have to enjoy what we've gotten?
I am pretty sure you will have to live with what is there. I may have Chris and Jo, his wife, do another series, and perhaps this time we can do a mini CD, or a download.

You may remember Chris Johanson's work on many different skateboards from Toy Machine to Antihero. He was also featured in the documentary Beautiful Losers. Here are a few more links to see his art and learn about his gallery shows: 1, 2, 3.