April 8, 2009
Words: Rob Brink
The following conversation took place in April of 2009, the week Leo Romero left Baker to ride for Toy Machine. It was intended to be an audio interview for The Skateboard Mag's website, accompanying his photo-only feature that ran in the mag that month, in which case, it would have been his first interview discussing all that you're about to read.
Much to my dismay (especially when I found out there'd be no paycheck for me as a result), Leo requested that only the photos run and I've been sitting on this for over a year and a half.
My apologies in advance if you've read some of this info in interviews that have since been published by other mags or websites. I figured since he's the new SOTY, it's a good time to publish regardless. Enjoy, and congrats, Leo! Well deserved.
I have this theory that you’re really into slamming and pain. Am I wrong?
I mean, no one likes pain. I wanna make the trick obviously, but part of the fun of skateboarding is scraping your elbow and falling on your knees. As a kid walking around with scabs all over me, I was like, “Fuck yeah! I’m a dirty skater!” You know what I mean? To me, that’s skateboarding.
I remember you came up to me once and said, “Why do you always put slams of me on the Internet?”
Yeah, ‘cause I saw this clip you made of a RVCA demo and it was all slams and only two makes. I was like, “Fuck, I swear I made more than two tricks.”
Well, you seem to commit slamming. You don’t put your arms down. You fall to your shoulders and your head all the time. I was just like, “This guy is crazy in a really good way.”
Everyone learns how to slam and that’s just the way I fall I guess. Look at Corey Duffel, he’s broken many a bone. I don’t think he likes pain. I’m sure at a demo people like to see someone fall though.
I’ve never seen anyone skate a demo as hard as you. You can barely walk by the end. But kids see that and take it with them. You went for it while the other guy was sitting in the van not skating.
Yeah, I don’t do it to shine above anybody. I do it ‘cause those kids are there to see you skate. I remember seeing pros not even skating a demo when I was younger and I was like, “Fuck dude, why isn’t that guy skating? I’m here to see him skate.”
They finally turn pro and get a board. Then they get a shoe and an apparel line and all of a sudden they’re too cool to skate a demo. And you’re like “Wow, only two years and you’re over it?”
Yeah, it’s so funny to see that ‘cause it’s like, “What exactly are you too cool for? You’re obviously collecting the checks but you’re too cool to do a kickflip for the kids who are buying your board?” I think it’s fucking funny, man.
I don’t want a kid leaving a demo and saying, “Why didn’t Leo skate?” I wanna skate like they see me in a video or a magazine, not pussyfoot it just because it’s a demo.
So you’re the hot news item this week. People probably want to know why you quit Baker for Toy Machine.
Just a change of pace I guess.
It seems a common reaction is “Why would you ever leave Baker?” As if you are making a mistake or something.
I can see that. But I didn’t even get that reaction from Andrew. He was as cool as anything. I was already feeling weird because I was thinking about quitting. I didn’t want to go behind his back or whatever. Calling Andrew Reynolds and quitting his company is kinda scary, you know what I mean? When I told him he was like, “Oh, that’s cool man, who are you gonna ride for?”
He thought it was cool that I was riding for Toy instead of some lame company. I never had any second guesses about quitting but his reaction just reassured me that it was a good decision on my part.
Amazing that he’s a real friend in that situation and not just your boss.
That’s how I look at it. He’s not mad at me for quitting his company. He’s happy for me and that’s fucking awesome.
It seemed like a lot of people thought you were a perfect fit on Baker when you went there. I’m wondering if all along you were feeling differently?
It’s just weird. When you get older things change. When I was on Foundation, people thought I was good on there and then I was on Baker and people thought I was good on there. Now that I’m on Toy Machine people think it’s good.
You once said that your boards don’t sell on Baker. I know quitting wasn’t a money thing, but it sort of got me thinking that you might shine brighter on Toy Machine in a way …
I’ve heard people talk about that, like, “Oh, you want to be bigger on Toy Machine.” But it’s not that. I don’t care if my boards don't sell. When I put out graphics I’m not trying to put out top sellers—I put graphics out that I think are funny. There are a lot of good people on Toy Machine. Just like there are a lot of good people on Baker. I didn’t switch to be like, “the main guy” or anything ‘cause that’s the last thing I want. Before me, Toy Machine was still fucking awesome. I’m not really bringing anything to the table that isn’t already there.
As far as Emerica is concerned, there are a lot of the same riders. What’s different about being on Emerica than Baker?
I’ve been on Emerica since I was a fucking kid. They’ve helped me out a lot. It’s different. With Baker it’s like I was joining the cool guys—like the skate stars. And with Emerica it was always like family. I just want to be happy. Not that I wasn’t happy with Baker. It’s nothing that they did. I just wasn’t happy, period.
How would things be different if you had never left Foundation?
That’s hard to say. Maybe the same. Even a month ago at a signing, kids were like “Oh you’re on Baker? Why did you quit Foundation?” And I was like, “That happened three years ago.”
I think with me people don’t really identify my skateboarding with a board company. They just see me as being on Emerica.
It could even be said about this interview and how much we’re talking about Baker and Toy Machine, but are people thinking way too hard about skateboarding these days?
I totally think so. Like, who cares man? People quit companies like all the time. But you can even see it in ads and stuff. People just standing there and looking cool.
I think it’s gotten to that point where certain people think they’re celebrities and it’s like, “You’re not a celebrity, dude, you’re just some retard skater guy. We all are.”
You’ve explained in other interviews a sort of ugly aftermath with Tod Swank when you left Foundation. Are you on a different level with him now, going back to the Tum Yeto umbrella?
I’m not like, good friends with Tod or anything but I was still holding a grudge from back in the day and being a little fuck. I’ve always liked Toy Machine and the only reason I didn’t get on sooner was because of me being an idiot about that whole deal. Towards the end of me being on Baker I was talking to Ed and jokingly was like, “Yeah, if you guys make him put an ad out saying he’s a dick, I’m down to do it.” So Ed’s like, “Alright, let me call him.”
That’s more like how skateboarding was in the early nineties.
I think it’s funny and cool on Tod’s part to do that ad. So I was like, “Alright cool, fuck it.”
Rocco stole Richard Mulder from Foundation back in the day and ran a pretty funny ad with Richard driving his Porsche announcing it.
It just makes it more fun. It’s not too serious, you know what I mean? I think Tod used to kick people off in ads, right?
Yeah, Ronnie Creager got kicked off Foundation in an ad. Do you ever feel that you need to get away from skateboarding, whether it’s the people or the filming or whatever?
I never get to the point where I’m like “Oh dude, skating is such a drag. I’m over it for a week.” It’s more like, “What are we doing this weekend? We’re going to the swap meet? Fuck yeah, let’s do it! Let’s play some guitar today. Lets ride some bikes!”
I’m never putting down my board because I’m sick or tired of skating. I’m just putting it down ‘cause something else comes up—like the weekend.
What’s something you need to work on to improve yourself as a person?
I guess people sometimes think I’m a dick because I don’t really like talking to many people. But like, Austin Stephens doesn’t talk to many people and he’s not a dick. I’m sure I’ve got things to work out but I don’t really know. I guess that’s a question I should ask people … “Hey man, how am I lame?”
I heard that you’re not the best person to go riding Harleys with because you just get on your bike and go 100 miles an hour and leave everyone in the dust.
I’m a very impatient person. If people are lagging I’m like, “Fuck this I’m outta here.”
If you could fight any famous person who would it be?
God I dunno, that’s a hard one. Probably Rocky Balboa. Yeah, ‘cause it would be the last fight of the movie and it would be a pretty big deal.
But you’d probably get your ass kicked.
Yeah, but it’s worth it if it’s Rocky, dude.
See, but that goes back to the pain thing I was asking earlier.
Sometimes it’s worth it to get a little broken up to have some fun.
What do you hate right now?
I’m a pretty simple guy. Not too much shit bothers me but I hate going to overcrowded bars and they’re overcharging you for beer. I hate that.
So on the other side all that, what makes you happy on a daily basis?
The same things as everybody else I think: Playing guitar, listening to music, barbecuing on a summer day, finishing up some cold ones, fucking girls.
Beer, food and women …
And music and skateboarding. Pretty simple.
Imagine everyone in the world was that simple? How awesome would that be?
Yeah, everybody would be drinking, barbecuing and out for poon.