Tim’s so witty that you forget how good he actually is on a skateboard—which, in turn, legitimizes him and his ability to make fun of us (skaters) so we don’t beat the shit out of him for doing it. He’s very good at dancing, diplomatically, on the line of offensiveness. It’s what makes him Tim. He’s the court jester. He’ll hate that I said that. Tim’s interpretation of me is that I lift weights in a Rolls Royce while sipping a glass of burgandy. – Reese Forbes
Interview by Keir Johnson
Keir Johnson: Tim, there was an article awhile back about BGP’s, they had one with you chilling in the crowd in Vallely’s old Powell part.
Tim O’Connor: Yeah, the first pro I saw kill it in real life was Mike Vallely at a demo in my hometown. After that it was Jason Lee, Randy Colvin, and some other World Industries heads from back in the day. Those were “the days” as they say. I have a serious affinity for that period in skateboarding and I feel nostalgic as a mo-fo when I think of skating in 1990-1991. That time in skating was nothing less for me than being constantly psyched and not wanting to do anything but skate. That’s also before I found out about jerkin off. So that’s probably gonna be a factor in that whole mix.
Keir Johnson: Who gave you your first set-up?
I ended up getting into skating because my two older brothers got themselves boards and one of my good friends had a Rob Roskopp board. I used to steal my one older brother’s board all the time and I learned to ollie one day. It was basically from that day on that I was hooked. This all took place in the bowels of good ol’ dirty Jersey. My whole skate career was born in the New Jersey area and shortly after extended into NYC. My first skate comrades were mainly my friend Steve, my older brother Darren, and a family of brothers that I chilled with all the time named the Galesis. They had a mini ramp in this crusty airplane hanger thingy at their house that I would always skate.
Keir Johnson: Early mini ramp training. Who were some of the first people you saw in mags and videos?
Tim O’Connor: The first glimpses I got of magazine stuff was photos of Gonz, Natas, and Hosoi. I remember my brother watching Future Primitive and I was just a little human hangin’ in the room watching it with him and his friends. I didn’t skate at the time when he was watching that, but I remember that being some of the first skating I ever saw. The first video I watched when I was officially skating was Animal Chin.
Keir Johnson: NYC, what was it like as a kid?
Tim O’Connor: Yeah, NYC was the first big city I skated in when I was about 10 years old. Me and my older brother hopped the train and went to a contest at the Brooklyn Banks. NYC is close to my house and just a short train ride away. The first spot in the city was definitely the Banks and then after that I remember skating midtown Manhattan at a time when you could skate anything and everything whenever you wanted. You wouldn’t get kicked out of shit back then. It was amazing.
Keir Johnson: When did sponsorship first happen for you?
Tim O’Connor: My first sponsor was Think skateboards. I got on them because my friend Pancho Moler rode for them and passed along my sponsor-me video. I also ended up skating with the team shortly there after and they hooked me up officially.
Keir Johnson: After Think you rode for Zoo York for a while.
Tim O’Connor: The mid 90’s was a fun time to be skating NYC. I skated the Banks all the time. That was always the first stop of the day every time I was in the city. I was most definitely around a lot of the OG heads. But I mostly chilled with my own little crew of people. I would skate with those other heads from time to time though. I skated with Mike Cardona, Quim Cardona, Bobby Puleo, and with some other heads that were from around my way in NJ. They were some fun times and we’d just hold it down in NYC all day and night. Skating all the way from the bottom of downtown straight up to the tip top of midtown. I don’t know why I didn’t just take the train instead. I guess because I was next to broke at that time and we’d just hit all the spots along the way while headed towards uptown.
Keir Johnson: What was your first photo in a mag?
Tim O’Connor: My first photo was in a Thrasher doing a backside shifty over this gap in Jersey but right outside of Philly. I grew up in Morristown, NJ. But the photo was taken in Moorestown, NJ. I remember this photographer named Kelly Ryan taking me to this gap and I thought it would be boring just doing an ollie. So I was throwing in a shifty to spice it up a bit. It was over some flowery bushes or something and the caption said “flower power shifty.” I was psyched when I saw it in the mag for the first time.
Keir Johnson: Around this time, you had a lot going on in terms of coverage. But Eastern Exposure 3 really elevated your status. How did that all come together?
Tim O’Connor: I filmed my part last for EE3, the whole video was close to done already. I filmed it in a really short time. I remember seeing most of Donny Barley’s part before I even knew Dan Wolfe. He came over to Ricky Oyola’s house while I was there one time and showed it to us. I was screaming all loud and shit because I was so psyched on it. That’s what Dan tells me anyway. The part was originally supposed to be a Bobby Puleo part but then Dan met me. I was around Philly a lot at that time, so we ended up filming together. One of the lines in my part was just supposed to be a friends clip in Bobby’s part. But then it ended up switching around and Bobby had some footy in my part.
Keir Johnson: Obviously, you followed Dan Wolfe’s lead over to Element after that.
Tim O’Connor: I got on Element shortly after Eastern Exposure 3 premiered. Dan Wolfe started to work for Element and they wanted me on. But I wasn’t really into it. I was actually hoping to end up on Alien Workshop or Girl. But I got talked into the Element deal and I was already friends with Reese Forbes and some of the other guys on the team. Those were some good years. I still keep in touch with most of the people I was on Element with. Since then, we have all quit though. But it was good times when we all rode for them and were traveling like maniacs. The only bad part about it was the graphics. I hated how generic a bunch of the shit was back then. I would say stuff all the time. But it fell on deaf ears.
Keir Johnson: Your part in the first Element video that Wolfe did is one of my favorites—both for the skating as well as the song you skated to. Talk about the group you skated to, Natural Elements.
Tim O’Connor: I got into Natural Elements mainly from listening to the Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito radio show. They had ill music and I still listen to it to this day. They would also come up to the show every now and then and were some of the illest live performers. I ended up skating to that one song because it had the perfect hook for an Element theme. I knew the song well and when it came time. I just told Wolfe that I had the perfect song for him. He agreed when he heard it. And then he used it, and that was that. You can’t do any better than a good beat with the hook “Name an element: water, air, earth, fire.” That pretty much fit perfectly into place for an Element video.
Yeah, underground classic, second only to Keenan skating to Royal Flush in Mouse. What was it like growing up while the Stretch & Bobbito show was on still on air?
Tim O’Connor:I listened to the show all the time back then. I was still in school and would listen to it until I couldn’t stay awake anymore because it was on from 1:00 to 5:00 AM. If I was gonna pass out, I would just put a tape in and hit record so I could hear the rest in the morning. I would listen to it religiously though and make tapes constantly from the show. That’s where pretty much all of my music came from at that time. I definitely stayed up all night before taping the whole damn thing. The show was hosted by some funny motherfuckers. They were definitely on their own original tip. They had the most proper real hip hop that you would never hear on commercial radio in a million years. Well, actually, some heads went on from that underground level to get themselves some big time record deals. I’m influenced a lot from that show both comedically and musically.
Keir Johnson: I’m obsessed with it too—still tracking down dubs. What was the best hip hop show you ever saw?
Tim O’Connor: I’ve been to a couple of good ones. I saw the Artifacts back in the day and I was crazy hype on seeing them live. I remember actually seeing Biggie in the crowd right by me. Later on down the line, I saw Sage Francis a couple of times and I was blown away by his stage presence and just his overall quality of music.
Keir Johnson: Back to skating, in your career thus far, what have been your favorite pro board graphics?
Tim O’Connor: My first pro board on Element was pretty dope. Natas Kaupas—who was my idol—did my first graphic. So it was a cool little footnote in my life. There is one board in particular that Joe Castrucci did for me that I seem to like the most. It was my first Terratone board on Habitat. It had an elephant on it. I don’t know why, but I like elephants. I’ve just always been psyched on the artwork.
Keir Johnson: Speaking of Habitat, can you break down the company and your involvement with them?
Tim O’Connor: Habitat is the brain child of Joe Castrucci—who is also the guy that does all the graphics and video stuff for it. I ended up on Habitat by being good friends with Brian Wenning. And I also wanted to quit Element. So it was perfect timing. I was always hanging out with everybody that was on the team. I always wanted to be on Alien. So for Habitat to come along from that camp, it was perfect. And I ended up where I always wanted to be. It was the best choice I ever made in skating. Too many good things to name have come since I’ve ridden for them. Mostly some of the most incredible trips with people that I’m inspired by on and off the board. It’s a real tight-knit team and everybody is good friends which is always buttery. Some of my best friends in the world ride for Habitat. So it’s an overall good deal. Shit, even all the people that work at the warehouse are incredible. And that’s a god damn rarity in skateboarding.
Keir Johnson: You seemed to be having a lot of fun MC’ing at Tampa Am earlier this year. Any kids want to fight you?
Tim O’Connor: Doing Tampa is all right at times and super draining at other times. That contest is long as hell. It’s hard to sit through that whole damn thing. A couple of kids have wanted to fight me for sure. But that just made me make fun of them even more so on the mic.
Keir Johnson: You’re skating for adidas these days. How did that work out and might we see an O’Connor shoe in the future?
Tim O’Connor: I ended up on adidas because I wasn’t happy with riding for the humans at I-Path. The whole thing with adidas came up at the perfect time. The team manager of Quiksilver, Mark Oblow, talked to Bryce Kanights and the guys at adidas about me riding for them. Things ended up working out. Now I ride for the three stripes and I’m psyched. Dennis Busenitz is goddamn incredible. And it’s always buttery to be on a team with the Gonz. I will, in fact, have a pro shoe. I just got a sample of the shoe the other day and I’m blown away with how good it came out. It’s pretty amazing to have your own shoe on a company like adidas—which are shoes that I’d be skating in anyways even if I didn’t ride for them. The shoe won’t be out for a while. But I get to rock the samples in the meantime. I’m hyped on that. Everything is lovely over at adidas. The people that are running it are genuinely good people. So I’m feeling good about it overall.
Keir Johnson: What other kinds of things are you doing these days?
Tim O’Connor: I’m learning to play the guitar a bit. Lately, I’ve been talking to some Hollywood bigwigs about potential comedy ideas as far as shows and stuff like that. That’s all thanks to Bam Margera for opening up the door for me on that level. And besides all of that, I’m just traveling extensively and cleaning up my not yet house-trained dog’s shit when I’m at home.
Keir Johnson: What can we look out for this year?
Tim O’Connor: I’m filming for the Habitat video, Inhabitants. I was out in Barcelona for a short bit because I’m gonna try to do a Pro Spotlight for Transworld with that photographer Oliver Barton. That might get pushed back a bit though cause I had to leave Barcy prematurely to deal with some stuff on the home front. So mostly just filming away, and maybe you’ll see my head pop up on the TV in the not-too-distant future if a show idea comes up that I won’t feel like I’m selling my soul doing it. It’s gotta be proper and not that usual corny MTV shit. I’m not dying to be on TV, so it’ll have to be on the level of Curb Your Enthusiasm or something like that.