Mind Field

Alien Workshop Mind Field

Alien Workshop
Mind Field

In 2009, Alien Workshop released their fourth full-length video, Mind Field. Upon becoming widely circulated online, it was soon regarded as an artsy piece of shit—by me at least. The skating was great- for the most part- but I hated everything the video represented, which to me, was the blossoming hipster culture of the late 2000s. This overall hatred had much deeper roots than just Mind Field—but the video became an easy target, if for no reason other than the black and white shots of birds, and the two Animal Collective songs on the soundtrack.

At the time of Mind Field’s release, I was halfway through my freshman year of college, meaning that my friends and I were well into our journeys of developing new yet juvenile identities. This wasn’t without contrast among us: They started drinking; I didn’t. They started cuffing their pants; I didn’t. They listened to Animal Collective; I listened to Modest Mouse. Yes, their new tastes and behaviors annoyed me, but instead of focusing my passive-aggression on them, I found a new basin in which to funnel it—Mind Field.

Encouraged by the fact that Mind Field is rather easy to make fun of, I turned to my frequently-visited message boards and often chimed-in on any Mind Field related discussions.

“I love those shots of neat wind-up toys.” “I really like seeing those birds in the sky.” “Remember that cool, rotating ball of liquid mercury?” “There must be 15 keyboards in Jake Johnson’s song!” “Jason Dill’s hair is just so sick.”

It’s not uncommon for me to suddenly start loving something I once strongly hated. It’s likely that my Liberal Arts education began shaping my views of creative self-expression, because by semester’s end, my YouTube rotation began steadily featuring parts from Mind Field. I came to appreciate the nuisances of the non-skate-related visuals, and instead started thinking of Mind Field more so as a collective work of art. So much so, that I ended up seeking out a physical copy on eBay; paying a slight premium for what will someday be regarded as one of the best skate videos ever. It is perhaps of the most irony here that the two parts which feature Animal Collective songs have since become two of my favorites.

Pardon me, but I need to nerd out about a few things.

Intro

February 2009. Sitting in my dorm room, scouring every message board I knew of for a link to Alien Workshop’s newest video. A working link eventually led me to ask of my laptop, “What the fuck am I watching?” If anyone ever develops a hatred for Mind Field similar to the one I once had, it’s probably because of the intro. A bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace is in fact a bold choice, but unfortunately, it borders on total pretense. But for whatever twist of reason or taste, I’ve come to love the intro to Mind Field, and consider it to be my favorite skate video intro of all time.

Jake Johnson

This was Jake Johnson’s first “real” part, wasn’t it? It could have been due to a lack of expectations, but I remember the consensus being that he fucking killed it. Not only did he manage to help usher in a new approach to not only skating jersey barriers, but also wall-rides and power-skating in general. Maybe it’s just the nostalgic nod to Alien Workshop’s east-coast roots that makes this part so subtly special; or maybe it’s because Jake Johnson is just so good at skateboarding.

Jason Dill

In 2009, Jason Dill was about to cross from the thresholds of relevance into that of obscurity, joining the likes of Carlos Ruiz and Matt Allen. To everyone’s benefit however, Mind Field was released.

If I am to truly serve my purpose of being a writer, then I owe it to the world to make the following confession: Jason Dill’s part features a song by Animal Collective, and I happen to love it. Gods be damned if it doesn’t just supercharge everything into another stratosphere. Chalk it up to another east-coast infused barrage of tricks and an “I don’t give a fuck what you think of my skating approach,” but this part will always remain as a personal favorite, with his ender holding a spot in my top five favorite tricks of all time.

AVE

Anthony Van Engelen does not look like a little boy, and neither do I. This simple fact is reason enough for me to set aside the time to watch any of his parts. If I ever dedicate myself to learning tailslide-to-noseslide variations, it’s because of his featurings of them in Mind Field.

Heath Kirchart

This is without a doubt the heaviest part in Mind Field, and may be one of the heaviest of all time. While the skate world may never understand just why Heath Kirchart retired from skateboarding after the release of Mind Field, we can collectively embrace the glory this part left behind, even if it comes paired with a song by Morrissey.

John Rattray- Feed the Need

John Rattray Osiris Feed the Need Obscure Gems

I will likely never know the last piece of my ancestry. My great-grandma was adopted, and the topic was supposedly treated as something which never needed to be discussed. The research done by her descendants has narrowed the choices down to Wales, Ireland or Scotland, and will remain as such for all eternity. For whatever reason, Scotland stood out as the most impressive of three, leading me to identify as being Scottish. I think their tradition of throwing telephone poles is what made the choice so obvious.

John Rattray happens to be from Scotland. It also happens that I would regularly watch his part in Feed the Need. What is perhaps of most significance lies with the fact that Feed the Need is a video by Osiris. The solace, if there is any to be redeemed from this tragedy, is with John Rattray having been awarded last part. In doing so, he successfully dethroned a champion of last parts who happened to be in his prime: Corey Duffel.

I first came across Feed the Need in a friend’s basement. It sat on a coffee table, scattered among tech decks and old magazines. Its flimsy cardstock sleeve told me that it had likely been included with a previous month’s Thrasher. The fact that that my skaterat friend didn’t force me to watch it told me that Feed the Need wasn’t very good. I asked him if I could take it home. He told me that I could keep it.

It wasn’t until weeks later, in my bedroom with nothing else to do, when I first watched Feed the Need.  With the production budget and soundtrack of a free video, my interest throughout was at half-capacity. If a miracle had allowed me to make it to the last part (Rattray’s), it was divine intervention which got me through the first 30 seconds of it. Black Sabbath and poetry are two things which I happen to love, but the combination of both should never again be attempted.

It wasn’t even Rattray’s skating which initially stood out to me, but rather the song choice. In the following days, I found the quick piping scream from the chorus randomly popping into my head, almost forcing me to re-watch his part.

John Rattray has a unique approach to skating is a “no shit” statement if there ever was one. Not that he was a proponent of circus tricks, but his part in Feed the Need precedes any fascination with being different for the sake of being different. I’m aware of just how bitter that last sentence sounds. This part is a flagship example of Rattray’s trademarks in skating: fast skating, quick-footed lines and a distinct eye for spots. There is no other way for me to describe this part other than solid as fuck.

Geoff Rowley and Friends- Chichagof

Geoff Rowley and Friends Volcom Chichagof Obscure Gems

If I began an interior journey at the speed of light, it would take me an eternity to arrive at the other side of my emptiness. And if I tried to fill my emptiness, I’d need a spigot so large it would have to be turned by a hand the size of a planet. And the torrent that would follow would be as though a single gnat were to sweat a molecule of water on a desert’s burning surface. No…what am I gonna do about this?

The spoken-word intro above, followed by a Motörhead song which calls to disobey all figures of power and wealth is enough to push every single hormonally-challenged 14 year old boy to the thresholds of angst and rage. I’m 27 now and I still feel like carving skate logos into things when I watch this part. Perhaps a better thought to ponder is just how the hell this part came into existence. While I don’t doubt that there are other documentations of pros and epic mini ramp sessions floating around, I do doubt that any of them were filmed in the middle of a forrest.

Judging by the tens of skate videos I habitually downloaded and watched at this point in time (2004-05), a mini ramp part wasn’t something companies were putting in their videos- let alone as the last part. However, this type of creative decision should be expected when previous parts in a video are shared between two opposites such as Dustin Dollin and Lewis Marnell (R.I.P.).

At the age of 14, it was easy for me to dismiss this video as a sort of discordance between odd visuals and music as opposed to actual skateboarding. It was more likely that I thought Chichagof was really dumb. I no longer think this video is dumb, however, it is hard for me to sit through more than five minutes. Most online streams have horrible audio/ video quality and often end up giving me a headache. I also get headaches when I eat Pringles, so I might just be a total wimp.

The majority of online sources attribute this part to Geoff Rowley. This makes sense, being that he does about 70% of the tricks. Guest skaters whom I can identify include Tom Penny, Mark Appleyard, and PJ Ladd. I would appreciate any identification of the skaters whom I cannot.

Devin Appelo- Hesh Law

Devin Appelo Obscure Gems Creature Hesh Law

I really hate the term “underrated.” It gets used a lot on skateboarding message boards. What people are talking about are skaters and video parts that just get overlooked.

I’m pretty sure that skateshops started putting Hesh Law in the 50% off bin within a week of getting it. That’s just the way Creature seems to get treated. I don’t much care for the brand, mostly because I don’t get the horror movie/ ratrod/ bright piss green subcultures. I do appreciate Creature for their consistency in releasing actual videos that aren’t just web garbage, but it doesn’t seem like anyone buys them.

This is unfortunate because the creature team lays down some seriously gnarley shit. Taylor Bingaman and David Gravette destroy all terrain, and (even though I’m unsure if the guy is still alive) Devin Appelo quietly put out this obscure gem. If you don’t end up muting it after the first five seconds, you probably will after 13.

The way this part is filmed and edited doesn’t do any favors for Appelo either, but you can still observe his distinct spot selections and “no fucks given” style. It clocks in at under two minutes, so it’s an easy commitment as well. I thought that this part could use a more enjoyable soundtrack, so I went ahead and overlaid the theme to Home Alone. I hope you enjoy it.

Ben Gilley- Reason to Believe

Ben Gilley Reason to Believe Obscure Gems

I must have been 16 years old and downloading a new skate video every day when I first came across Reason to Believe. 10 years later, when subtle nuances remind me of favorite skate parts I have locked away in the back of my mind, Reason to Believe is still holds up as a charming local video from Alabama.

From what small amount of info I can find online, it looks like this video was released in 2006 and has a runtime of under 30 minutes. The soundtrack is surprisingly decent, and there happens to be a Jaime Thomas part with more than just throwaway footage. What initially attracted me to this video was the intro. I can’t imagine how much it must have cost to use a Johnny Cash song (When the Man Comes Around). Watching it again now and seeing that it was backed by Zero, Fallen, Black Label and Destructo has helped me realize how a shop was able to afford such a good production for a video.

The point to all of this is to say that Ben Gilley’s part in Reason to Believe featured some really heavy shit for its time. Being that this was essentially a shop video, it was never destined to get as much mainstream attention as a board or shoe company production. Notoriety originally came in the form of parts being uploaded to youtube and shared across message boards for only a handful of people to appreciate. And what was most likely because of his ender, Ben Gilley got a ton of underground appreciation.

Whatever this part ultimately gets remembered as, it unfortunately won’t be for the three tricks prior to the ender, which are all examples of balls-out commitment.

I’ve honestly spent the better part of the last three days trying to think of more reasons as to why this part is so gnarley. The truth is that I can’t. Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” just matches perfectly with footage of dudes skating shopping carts in auto-shop parking lots. Just enjoy it.