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|Mike Vallely tweaks a Japan air while doing a demo in Sweden.|
People everywhere have their own opinions of Mike Vallely. I make it a point to not put much stock in what other people think about anything. I know I've been a fan of Mike V's since I stepped on a skateboard 22 years ago and I'll be stoked on him until one of us is dead. Mike V is a part of our culture's rich history and he's still ripping today; that alone deserves respect. The fact that he's from the next town over from me in Edison, New Jersey, well that's just icing on the cake. Recently, Mike turned his back on a long-time, high-paying, Element contract to start his own do-it-yourself brand, By The Sword skateboards. The boards are about to ship and I decided to talk to Mike about the new company.
How's the new brand going?
Well, it's going. We just released our first product line catalog so it's finally real. We said we were going to do it but we weren't really sure we could. But now we have actual product being made so it's really happening and that feels good. We'll start shipping in early October.
How's the overall response been?
It's been surprisingly good in the sense that I wasn't counting on anything or banking on anyone even carrying it so I haven't gone out of my way to get in anyone's face about it. But people have been coming to me and they're relating to the core message and ethos of the brand, the "D.I.Y. or Die" mentality. I think the skateboard world, in many facets, has moved pretty far away from that so me shining a light on those ideas has gotten people to respond to it, especially kids who in these mediocre times were unaware of these ideologies and skateboarding's punk rock roots.
I remember when I used to place Consolidated orders 15 years ago and Jason Jessee would answer the phone. Are you going to be doing sales calls?
No, I'm not doing sales calls. That's pretty cool that Jason Jessee would answer the phone but I don't plan on answering the phone. I'm gonna stick to what I'm good at.
Is it Mike V only as the whole team or are you putting together a squad?
No, we're putting together a squad. The thing to understand is that this is not just a Mike V brand or Mike V company; It's not all about me. I really want to develop a skateboard company that other people can be a part of and be a platform for up and coming skaters. I don't really plan on being too much in the foreground on this thing as it develops. By The Sword is something I think all skaters can relate to; it's not just a Mike V thing. I mean, I am who I am and I can't really do much about that but I don't really plan on it being a my face all over the place kind of thing.
Can a kid get on the team if he can't do fastplants?
Yeah, probably. I'm not really looking for the fastplants, I'm looking for the heart and the guts and balls.
Where does the name By The Sword come from?
Through the years I've had people say it to me. I'd hear, "You know Mike, you live by the sword, you're gonna die by the sword," with a really negative connotation attached to that. I always like to deconstruct those kinds of things people say. I found that By The Sword, to me, has a really positive connotation. It's about living full on, full out, all the way, 100 percent and giving it your all. That's how I've always lived and that's how I skate and if I happen to die while living then that's a goddamn good thing.
Will you do a board graphic with a dude cutting down the Element tree with a sword?
Ha ha! No.
|Mike Vallely flanked by Kristian Svitak and Cyril Jackson while on his "Glory Bound" tour this past summer.|
How did that divorce go?
I think it came out of nowhere for both sides. We were legitimately working towards trying to maintain a relationship. But my whole time with Element I was striving to find out what was next and there was a lot of talk about doing a brand within their brand and setting me apart so I could do my own thing within Element. In December, when they decided to burn my shoe contract, I realized I could do another deal with Element and sign on for another 10 years but who says they're not going to burn that contract? Johnny Schillereff, Ryan Dewitt and Ryan Kingman when he was there; they're all good guys and guys I'd go to war for any time. But the powers that be above them can do whatever they want at any time. I didn't want to be in that situation. I didn't want to be in a situation where someone else thinks they can tell me it's over.
Usually a guy will start his own company when he has a cushy shoe contract or whatever, as a pet project. You don't have a shoe sponsor. How dependent on the success of this brand is your family's well being?
I don't have any sponsors at this point besides the brands I have a personal stake in: By The Sword skateboards and Landshark wheels. I wiped the slate clean, I felt like I had to. What's funny is I'm not really considering that I am or should be dependent on this brand at all. The reason I'm doing this brand is for fun and because I love skateboarding and I want to do something that I think is righteous that has nothing to do with sponsors or contracts. So yeah, it's kind of a wild time for me to decide to do that but if I don't I feel like it'll just be more of the same, like the last seven years with Element where it pays the bills but it's really not getting me anywhere, then I don't feel like I'm a part of anything that's real that's skateboarding. So yeah, in making this move when I did, I'm definitely experiencing some hard times financially but I'm having a lot of fun, too and I'll gamble on myself any day.
Does the acting and this new hockey endeavor sustain you financially to where you can do stuff like By The Sword?
Hockey does not. That's also something I'm doing just for fun. I have other sources of income but do they sustain the lifestyle I've been used to riding for Element and having shoes sponsors? Not entirely, no. That's life. I've been here before. There are times where it's gravy and there are times where it's tough. I'm all about staying in the fight, man. I think the later rounds are the most interesting. I'm not a quitter.
Check Mike's site every Monday for Mondays with Mike V.