Chris Hall is most definitely a legend. Check your history books, you’ll see that Chris was an innovator of technical street skating in the early ’90s. Outside of skating, he’s been influential in the realms of sneaker culture, hip hop, and clothing design. Chris is also responsible for two cult-classic films, True Mathematics’s Prosperity, and more recently Get Familiar. When it comes to creating things that are aesthetically pleasing while remaining true to the culture, C. Hall nails it every time.
Interview by Keir Johnson
Keir: How did you start skating?
Chris: I started skating in 1982 in Australia for a minute. I had a board, but the bearings broke in a few months so I quit until I got back to the USA in 1984. My first “real” board that I remember was a Moto Built board with Moto Built trucks. I remember seeing Thrasher for the first time and the first Bones Brigade video for sure. I started skating in DC around 1986-87. It might have been 1985, I’m never really good at remembering stuff like that. It’s hard to remember my first actual trip to DC, but Pepe and I would go down and we’d hook up with Brian Tucci.
Keir: What was going to high school with Tucci like?
Chris: Haha, it was cool going to school with Tucci, we would chill at lunch always. Our school was just this weird pimped-out school in DC. During those days Brian was always killing it, he has been killing it since I’ve have known him, that’s like 20 years ago and still to this day he is ripping. He is the king of DC always.
Keir: Who were you guys psyched on back then in skating?
Chris: I was into Jeremy Klein, Brian Lotti, and Gonz. They all influenced me a lot and there were mad other people too like Hensley, Natas, Thiebaud, and Mickey Reyes.
How did you get so interested in graf and hip hop?
Chris: I got into graffiti at the same time that I got into hip hop, about 82-83. This dude stole money from his mom and he bought 5 cans of paint and we wet under a bridge and bombed the whole thing, I painted a boom box. I never got arrested or anything for graffiti. I went bombing with Twist once, that was sick. I’ve gone out with Cycle many times in the past too. I got into hip hop around the time when Style Wars came out and Beat Street too… before that I saw a clip of the New York City Breakers and was hooked. Back then I lived in Australia so the only thing we had was like the sound track to Beat Street to listen to or some breakdance type stuff like Newcleus.
Keir: Talk about Pep.
Chris: I met Pep at a local contest in 1987 and we just clicked and became good friends after that. We would skate in front of his house everyday for years and years. We both loved skating and hip hop so much that we just bonded. Pep was a natural skater. He had the talent right there, just like boom boom, no stressing to learn tricks, they just came real quick. I always had to sit there forever trying to figure tricks out. Basically skated with him almost everyday from about 87-93, that was my man. He invented the hardflip right in front of me one day. I didn’t even know what it was! He would do nollie backside wallrides on flat, stuff like that he was the best at. I did some good traveling with him, we moved to Denver for awhile together, and tons of other crazy shit, he was my brother and I miss him a lot.
Keir: Where did you travel to in the early days?
Chris: The first time I went to NYC I remember driving there with my parents going through Co-op City near the Bronx. I remember it looking like Vietnam back in the day. Then one day I made my parents go to the Brooklyn Banks and I skated there for about an hour just carving around, there might even be flicks somewhere. The first time I went to NYC on some solo missions was soon after. I went up there and met up with Harold Hunter and Gangsta Rick. We just chilled and rolled around the city. We went by Phat Farm studios and saw my man Alyasha Moore who was the main guy behind that company back then. The first time I went to Cali was in 1989 or 1990. I went to cruise around with New Deal heads and go to a big contest. Right after that I went to SF and I stayed with Greg Carroll, skated with Jovontae Turner a lot. I was at EMB for two weeks chillin’ with Wing Ding and all the locs there, good times.
Keir: Did you feel like you were an innovator back in the early days, the first to do certain tricks?
Chris: I was into doing kickflips into tricks and flipping out of tricks. Back in the day, during that time when tricks were really evolving those kind of tricks were rarely done. I’m not sure if I was the first to do them, but kickflip nose wheelies, 360 flips out of a manny, nollie heelflips and of course the ollie… holla! For real though, I feel like I was not really inventing stuff but instead just pushing it forward, oh yeah I also did the loop way back in the day.
Keir: What about filming, you filmed Sheffey’s A Reason For Living part right?
Chris: Yeah my first camera was a VHS. I filmed Sean with it and some other local kids. I had first met Sheffey in 86-87 skating in DC. We all were a crew back then – Pepe, Tucci, Sheffey, Sunny, Ray Lanos, Lance Dawes, etc. Sean would just come skate Pulaski all the time with us. He was so wild – he would make everyone move out of the way when he skated. I remember he used to skate soooooo fast, he ran into me many times and just ran right over me for real! He would run everyone over haha. It was cool filming him in that video. He would always look at me after he did his trick to make sure I filmed it, if you look at the footage you can see. The last time I saw him was at ASR a few years ago and it was good to see him.
Keir: Pulaski was so crazy in the early 90’s.
Chris: Back then scenes at EMB and Pulaski were similar. Mad people always there, a lot of people getting jacked for their boards and beat downs. Just a bunch of dumb shit, I never got into it personally, but it happened a lot at Pulaski. I remember on the weekends there would always be at least be two or three fights or jackings in those days.
Keir: This was around the time that the Forbinator started coming out right?
Chris: Man I used to always see Reese skating around Pulaski back in the day, he was just raw as hell. Lots of pop and skill, he would absolutely kill it. The crazy thing is he would always have the worst set ups, all shaky and falling apart. He would also always be wearing the worst sneakers you can imagine. I think it’s funny because these days its the complete opposite. I got him some packages right from the get go from New Deal and Element. I just called them up and told them the deal about him. A little later he was on Goodtimes and I left Element, then he eventually ended up officially there a year later. I think I hooked him up because he really deserved it. It’s dope because nowadays he is large, he’s doing real well for himself, he’s a bastard… hahaha.
Keir: So just for the record who all have you skated for?
Chris: My first shop sponsor was a store called Island Water Sport in Georgetown. My first was real sponsor was Venture Trucks. Sheffey hooked that up somehow with Keith Cochrane and Greg Carroll. I think this was like ’89 maybe? Over my career I skated for Venture, Indy, Vision Street Wear, Dogtown, Airwalk, New Deal, Underworld Element, Fun from Oakland, Nicotine Wheels, and Intensity.
Keir: What was the “deal” with New Deal?
Chris: Andy Howell saw me skate at this contest and put me on. Andy was running it back then with Steve Douglas. They did some cool ads and asked us to help out with stuff sometimes, which was cool. We did some tours and demos around the USA. My first video part was in Useless Wooden Toys I think. Jimmy Pelletier filmed some of it and Andy filmed the rest. I was psyched on the ollie tail grab over the hip more than anything else. I never had a board with New Deal ever come out, my first pro board was actually with Underworld Element. That first pro graphic was a character of a guy holding a gun walking with a cane that my friend drew. Also the Powell warehouse contest in Santa Barbara was super big, that was back in 1990 or so.
Keir: So what was Underworld Element all about?
Chris: Yeah, Andy just said he was doing this new company and he wanted me to ride for them, so I did. I always liked all the graphics he did. Back then I never did any of my own. At the time the team was so solid – Julien Stranger, Jeff Pang, Rick Ibaseta, and a bunch of other ill heads made it sick.
Keir: Dropping the underworld and flipping it to just Element, where did you fit in all of this?
Chris: I just moved on. After awhile I skated for this company Experience and I wasn’t really into it at all. That dude Roger who ran it still owes me money, and I’m sure other people as well. He would put out boards with my name on it and not pay me. If you’re reading this when I see you we are going to your ARM to make a withdrawal whether you want to or not! I went to Tampa pro in 1998 but I rolled my ankle real bad in practice and didn’t enter. I was feeling good and almost did, but just skating the practice sessions with everybody was cool.
Around this time is when True Math came out, can you talk about that?
Chris: True Mathematics was a clothing company I did for a few years. I chose the name because it just sounded good. It wasn’t really on some rah rah shit. I made everything from pants to socks, shirts, etc. It was fun to get new things together and do designs. The team was Pepe, Igei, Appleyard, Tucci, Jamel Robinson, and a bunch of heads from DC, NY, and Toronto. I had mad heads on there. I stopped doing the company because it just got to be too much and just too expensive to keep it alive. The Catalyst board I did is a remake of one of the old graphics I did for a TM shirt.
Keir: So you spent some time in Toronto back then right, did you really discover Appleyard?
Chris: Yeah I moved to Toronto to get out of DC for awhile. I had a girl up there, so I ended up just moving there. Toronto is super cool, just a lot of cool ass people and mad skate spots. I skated with Appleyard, Sean Mo, Mike Smith, Justin Bokma and the Beasley crew in Hamilton – they know what’s good! I didn’t discover Mark, he was already the town ripper but I don’t think he was really known outside of his town. I did put him in his first skate part in the video I did for True Math called Prosperity.
Keir: Classic video, now what about the sneaker biz?
Chris: I started collecting sneakers in like 1997. I have always been into sneakers since I was a little kid, but around 1997 I got gully with it. I collect only vintage sneakers though, none of this retro stuff. I collected stuff mostly from 1970-1988, not really anything else newer than that. I’ve done things for Nike, Supreme, Pitcrew and a few other companies. I used to write an article in Mass Appeal magazine every month for a year and half back in 2002. My articles were relating to the culture of sneakers and collecting them. I was on ESPN before talking about sneakers and collecting with Bobbito Garcia.
Word and you were on the very last episode of the Strech & Bob show too, what was that like?
Chris: Being on the last show was sick, real sick! Me and Lord Sear just got 40’s and got loose. Stretch Armstrong was there, Pete Rock, Poison Pen, Red Alert goes berserk was there also. I met Bobbito through the sneaker world and we became friends. Bob is a cool cat…. peace Bob. I haven’t done much with Bobbito in awhile. I supplied a lot of shoes for his sneaker book called “Where’d You Get Those?”
Keir: The past few years of your life you were working with Mr. Darren Harper, what’s the lowdown?
Chris: I used to see Darren as a little kid a lot back in the day at Pulaski. He would be around just skating other people’s boards, just trying to learn how to skate. I couldn’t tell if he was ever going to be big because he would come and skate hard for like a month and then we wouldn’t see him for a year! He was on some skate a little bit and hustle a lot program for a long time. I think what happened is Darren just got fed up with selling drugs because it was going nowhere, and getting increasingly dangerous. I think him seeing Stevie blowing up made him think that he could do the same. I don’t think he knew it would be this much hard work, but he’s confident and he knew he could do it. He’s quickly gaining ground out there. He has been carving a name for himself and skating hard now for three years and he’s doing great! He will only keep rising to the top, he’s a beast.
Keir: Darren was the reason you decided to do Get Fam, tell me about the video.
Get Familiar – the name, it just sounded right. The title Get Fam deals with Darren, he was the original concept but then I was just like – yo I’m going to do a whole video of people I’ve met throughout my years of skating. It took roughly two years to complete the film. It was such a changing idea, there really wasn’t a line up in the beginning. I knew Darren would have a part, and the same with Zach Lyons. Bobby kept fronting but he finally agreed to come through. I tried to get an Appleyard part, but he was on some rah rah. I really didn’t have Gonz, Daewon, or Donny in mind at all when I began to do the video. It’s very interesting, but somehow it all came together like a puzzle.
It was really an incredible experience for real. I would say my favorite memory of the video was filming with Gonz all over NYC, that was unreal. My man Jacob Campbell really came through and helped me with editing.
Keir: Alright Chris, that does it, last question, what are you up to right now?
Chris: I’m working on some stuff in the sneaker world at the moment. I’m not sure about another skate video. You know, two years of filming and stressing is not fun. I’m back into the sneaker thing right now for sure though, different projects and whatnot. I’m looking forward to skating this summer because I want to do the loop but kickflip when I’m upside down, holla!