Marc Johnnson




Who or What got you into skateboarding?


In Sixth grade, I had some friends at school that skated. I started skateboarding by hanging out with them after school. I connected with skateboarding pretty quickly and it clicked with me, so I stuck with it. It gave me an identity apart from other kids by default, and I loved that. It gave me something most other kids didn’t have; a direction, a passion, a drive that kids that young don’t normally have. Skateboarding has taught me so much about myself and what I’m capable of. I could not be more grateful to have found it.



Biggest influences when you first got into skateboarding?  


My biggest influences were the older kids in my town that skated. They had a major influence on the way I skated and what I paid attention to. The older guys were really into World Industries stuff in the early 90’s and that shaped my outlook on skateboarding. I tore all the ads out of the magazines and taped them to my walls. Those were such incredible years. So much progression and creativity.



When you first turned pro did you ever think that was going to happen ?


I didn’t exactly think I would ever get sponsored or turn pro. I mean, I wished it would happen somehow, but I didn’t have a plan and I wasn’t connected to any pros or sponsored skaters. I came out of nowhere to be honest.



What was it like when you first turned pro was it what you thought it would be at the time ?


It took a long time to really sink in that I was a ‘pro’ skateboarder. I had such an isolated crew of friends and we didn’t hang out with big name pros or skate the hot spots. I just did my thing, and hung out with people I really liked to skate with. The biggest thing I remember around that time (1994-1995) was that pro skateboarders were assholes. I was so disappointed when I started going to contests and having to interact with other pros. It was shameful the way that most of them carried themselves. It pushed me away and I stayed out of the spotlight for a long time because of those initial experiences with professional skateboarding.



You rode and at one point was an owner of a skate company  what was it that brought you to Chocolate?


I never owned a company. You’re speaking about enjoi. I started that brand, but didn’t own it. I was the creative director. I layer out the ads, and did the catalogs and board graphics and team stuff. What brought me to Chocolate after that was a combination of a lot of things. Dwindle Distribution was sold to Globe without my knowing and ‘my’ brand was now owned by a surf company. I had asked prior to this if I could buy enjoi and my offer was refused. After the sale, Dwindle became much more a corporate shit show and I lost interest in working as hard as I did for as little money as I was getting paid. That’s basically it. I didn’t leave enjoi to go to Chocolate. That happened later. I just left and got drunk for a few months.



You also have been on Matix since the start of the brand what is it that keeps you loyal to the brand and why?


Matix has gone through lots of changes over the years. I’ve seen it get better and better, and more refined. The opportunity to help design signature clothing is a really cool outlet for me. When Matix branched out into signature lines, it became a richer experience, versus just wearing logo tees and slapping stickers on my boards. A different level of connection with the brand was achieved. My loyalty is based on who rides for the brand, as it was when I first got on the team. The riders make the brand what it is. I’ve been close with almost everyone who has ridden for the brand, past and present. Good folks. Some guys left to do other things, but riding for the same company sometimes gives you an opportunity to bond with people you otherwise wouldn’t have had.



You have some of the most mind blowing video parts to date is it easy to put out a part for you or do you have to really work at it ?


When I was younger it felt easier. There was a lot of stress regardless. There was just more room and more things were out there waiting to be done. I pushed myself ridiculously hard to film everything I’ve filmed, and as I get older with more tricks and video parts under my belt, I look for certain things specifically to do now. It’s hard to explain, but basically, I could film old parts over, no problem, but I don’t want to do that. I want to keep finding things that inspire me. There are fewer and fewer of those things now.



You had such an amazing part in Fully Flared and  I think an amazing part in Pretty Sweet  in your head were you like “I have to do something just as good or just flow with it and see what comes out” ?


My Pretty Sweet part began as one thing, and changed into what you ultimately see in the video. The tricks I was working on after Fully Flared were just beyond. It was really getting weird. At some point, I decided to approach everything in a new way– new for me. I simplified a lot of things instead of complicated them even more. I toned down the tech stuff and completely did away with the ledge combo stuff. I wanted to do what inspired me when I was younger. I know that may seem like a step backwards, but I realized that skateboarding still needs to look good. It needs to appeal to people, rather than depress them or confuse them. I can flip into and out of a manual or grind combo all day long, but the question that bothered me was, “Is this going to make someone want to go and actually skateboard?” I felt like the stuff I was doing after Fully Flared would shock people but definitely not inspire them to want to head out the door and throw their board down and ride. It’s time to think about what will inspire kids to want to skate. The time of showing people how technical or difficult I can make my skateboarding has gotten boring. And what’s really gotten boring is sitting at a ledge trying an absurdly hard trick for hours and hours, and rolling away with nothing but disgust. It’s time to enjoy myself. I’m taking that for myself.



Whats a daily routine for Marc Johnson?  


Coffee in the morning. Clear my head. Figure out what to do. My schedule is very random and spontaneous. I just got a dog, so he’s been a big part of my days lately. He’s just a baby, so I have to take care of him and clean him and clean up after him all day long. I’ve been taking some time off the board since Pretty Sweet to ‘recharge the batteries’ and figure out what to do next. I’ve been skateboarding since January 6th, 1990. Almost every day for 23 years, 3 months. This is the first time I’ve ever taken time off. I’ve been getting into gardening and landscaping. Working with plants calms me. I’ve been cleaning up a lot of stuff left over from the Fully Flared years, personally. That was a really difficult time in my life, and I made a lot of decisions during those years that built up a heavy mess, and I’ve been working that all out for a few years now. While I was building a mountain of gold, I was also building a mountain of shit. Gold Mountain closed: I’ve got a mountain of shit to deal with.



What is the craziest tour story or skating a spot where something has happened and you were like W.T.F. did that just happened?  


When I moved to California in 1993, I was held at gunpoint at a spot in San Diego by a vigilante Samaritan. He called the cops and I had to lie on the ground while we waited for them to show up. At some point, he dropped his pistol and it landed on the ground with the barrel pointed at my face. It could’ve gone off and killed me. I just stared at that gun for what seemed like hours, waiting for the flash of the barrel. My mind went blank. As it turned out, what the dipshit did by holding me at gunpoint was far more serious than my trespassing or skateboarding misdemeanor. He got in a hell of a lot more hot water than I did. Fat fuck.

I also saw some dudes shove strawberries and a AA battery in a passed out girl’s vagina at a hotel in Europe in the late 90’s. Not up close, but I walked into the room while it was going on. That was pretty weird. I remember wondering what she was going to think when those things came out. It was not a situation where I had any say in what was going on, so I kept my mouth shut and left. I saw the same girl at the bar the next night, drinking and being nasty with some other skaters. I was relieved, but confused. Dirty girl.






What else?


I’ve seen heroin addicts shoot up in Amsterdam. After someone shoots up long enough, their veins shrink and they have to find new veins in random parts of the body. This guy was shooting his woman up in the femoral artery, right next to her vagina. She was sprawled out against a brick wall under a bridge with her panties around her ankles and her man was up in there working away. I saw the rush once he shot her up, and saw her kind of slump over into a heroin dream.

I got beat up by a female wrestler in Japan once too.



Who inspires you these days in skateboarding?


I’m inspired by the acceptance of all types of skating now. It wasn’t always like that. There were ‘cool guys’ and then everyone else. Cool tricks, and then everything else. Now, you can skate anything, any way, and people are psyched on it. I’ve been really interested in transition lately. Whenever I find my way back to my skateboard, I’m going to mess around with some tranny skating. I like skating that looks comfortable.



What is your current set up ?  


I don’t have one! When I do set a board up, it will be an 8.125 Chocolate board with Thunder Trucks and Spitfire wheels, Andale Bearings, and MOB griptape. Maybe some home made stickers.



Do you have any rituals or can’t ride a certain color board?


I ride purple boards. The Chocolate concave is really good, and I actually weighed different boards on a scale in their warehouse once. The purple boards were slightly lighter. For some reason, that color feels different to me. Also, purple is the color of the Crown Chakra of the human body. It represents cosmic consciousness, understanding, and enlightenment. Purple is a pretty good color for lots of reasons. When your griptape gets mangled, it doesn’t look as hideous as a yellow board or a lighter color board as well.



What is your take on skateboarding when you first started and now?


Skateboarding was this wondrous thing when I was younger. This world of creative mystery, and this impossibly far away world of insider professional skateboarding. It was punk rock back then, a lot smaller but it had a huge set of balls. Skaters were revered and feared and outcast from normal society. That bred a certain kind of confidence in skaters. It was like a secret club that only skateboarders understood. People were fascinated and a little scared of us. Progression happened on a daily basis. New things were invented every day. There was such a fire to it. We were way behind what was going on in California, and it was so awesome to be constantly amazed at everything.

Now, I see an industry that’s discovered what it thinks is ‘big money’. Skateboarding tucked its balls away and has been playing it safe for a long time now– riding comfortably on that money train. Don’t rock the boat seems to be the ethos now. Don’t want to jeopardize our sales or make any waves. We got it real good, so lets just recolor that logo and put it on whatever is selling right now. I personally watched people turn over and start making weed leaf graphics because they sold so well, despite their personal feelings about promoting the use of illegal substances. People will do a lot of shit for money.



What period of skating through the years was your favorite time to skate?


Each period of time offered it’s own unique amazingness. Times change, but the stoke stays the same. 



If you could what up and comer would you like to put on the team?


Austyn Gillette, Blue Turner



What is you take on big companies trying to get in on skateboarding?  


I don’t actually care. You know why? Because by far, the most selfish tightwads I’ve ever seen in skateboard have been your beloved ‘core’ companies. Especially those who pretend to be struggling. A company owner is looking out for himself only. Don’t ever buy into that bullshit about ‘team’ and all that marketing horseshit. It’s just that– Marketing. Rich mothefuckers who could easily pay skateboarders more than they do, but try desperately to pay you as little as they can get away with. I’ve seen it over and over and over. I’ve seen actual numbers, and I’ve worked with budgets. Skateboard companies and shoe companies make so much goddamn money its disgusting. And they pay skaters like shit. Period. A huge company coming into skateboarding that drops a million bucks on some kid? Who cares? At least THAT kid will have something to show for his time and effort throwing his body down stairs for years and years. The kids who skate for the ‘core’ companies will just have a stack of video parts and a pile of debt when they’re done skateboarding. Don’t even think for one second that your favorite brands don’t short-change your favorite pro skateboarders. The reason XYZ company can push their products is because Pro A and Pro B says its cool. It’s always been like that. Skateboarders make the brand what it is, and ironically, are the lowest paid people in the company. #FACT  If some dude takes a Big Corpo check, it just means that some outside company is willing to pay these kids closer to what the skill level is worth in monetary terms. I’m not rich by any means. And if I see a kid get a half-million bucks off some energy drink, good for him. He can put his kids through college off of skateboarding. Whereas I, cannot. I ride for the companies I ride for, for a reason. But I will promise you this: When we’re all 60 years old at the Reunion Party, and some of us are broke and some of us are comfortable, none of it is going to matter anyway. No one’s gonna care in 20 years who you rode for or how much money you accepted. It’s your life. Do what you want with it.



What is planned for 2013 any new projects ?  


Yes. A new project.



Words of wisdom to any up and coming skaters?


I’m not a wise person by any means, but I have had my share of experiences in skateboarding. I will say this: If you’re angry, DEAL WITH THAT SHIT as soon as possible. Don’t drag your bullshit into a company situation. Don’t be so arrogant to think that the tricks you do make you a better person than the guy next to you in the tour van. You ain’t shit, and no one owes you a damn thing. Kindness and integrity are what will take you to where you’re meant to go. Be fucking NICE to people. That is the true strength. Anger is just a weak person shitting his diaper and refusing to take responsibility for his own life. Man up, and open your heart, and skateboarding will bless you with a life far richer than  you can ever imagine from where you stand right now. Trust me on this. Everyone loves certain skaters because of the kind of person they are, not just the tricks they do. Look around, you’ll see that. And from personal experience, watch out for booze and drugs. I advocate doing what works for oneself, but recognize when drinking or drug use gets out of hand, and cut that shit out before you throw away the very blessing you now have at your feet this very moment. Not trying to preach, I’m just saying from personal experience. Partying comes along with the territory, but the dude handing you that beer isn’t gonna be the one taking you to rehab. Take care of yourself, because unless you’ve got a good set of friends, based on how you treated people along the way, then you can lose everything from partying too hard. A lot of us are alcoholics, addicts, and recovering addicts and alcoholics. You don’t want to be either. Believe that. Be a skateboarder and a good person to the people you’re surrounded by. Build a life you can be proud of, not one you will be ashamed of.



Anyone you would like to thank?


Rick Howard, Guy Mariano, Jason Calloway, Brandon Biebel, Mike Carroll, Kelly Bird, Ty Evans, Roger Bagley, Tiltmode Army, Justice Ott, Federico Vittetta, Rodney Mullen, and my main man across the pond Chris Avery. All the people I’ve skated with and had fun with. And maybe one day we’ll meet and get to talk and skate together. Be well! – B.Hess



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