A couple of weeks ago skateboarding retail giant CCS asked me to interview the great Leo Romero for their catalog and blog. Shortly after the interview was completed, I got the word that CCS’s parent company was shuttering them and all work was to halt. Rather than see this interview shit-canned I’ve decided to post it here. I caught up with this former SOTY to discuss his penchant for making tunes, his band Travesura, and the similarities between skateboarding and music. Read on!
So what’s going on with you? How’s life?
Leo Romero: Life’s great man, I’m living. That’s something to be stoked about.
What have you been up to?
Leo Romero: Just been playing in the band and skating. I did an epic trip not to long ago. A video and article are going to come out in Thrasher, you know how it works these days.
Right. What’s going on with the Toy Machine Video is there something in the works?
Leo Romero: There’s something in the works but it’s more like we want to work on a video nothing concrete yet. Johnny and Daniel both ride for Vans and are working on something. And Kevin Barnett is doing the Dekline video so when everyone’s done we’re going to be like “Let’s do this” but it doesn’t mean we can’t still get footage.
Let’s talk about your band Travesura.
Leo Romero: We’re an ever-changing three-piece sometimes six-piece band. Sometimes we sound completely different than a couple nights before. Sometimes it’s country rootsy vibe and sometimes its really heavy electronic vibe. It’s always evolving and changing.
How did you link up with the other guys in the band?
Leo Romero: It all kind of just fell into my lap in a way. Mark and I met the dude at the show for the first time ever. It was one of those things where it was like, “This just feel’s right”. As cliche as that is, you just know it. It’s like when you hook up with a girl for the first time and you know if you’re going to like her after. You’re either, ah, I want you to get out of here or you’re like, “Let’s have breakfast”.
Leo Romero: Yeah we played music and I was like, “Fuck that was awesome!”
So did you have breakfast with the dudes after you played?
Leo Romero: Yeah it was one of those things where people would come to my shows and tell me, “Wow, you guys sound way better”. But before I mean, it was fun what I was doing, we would just get shitfaced and play shows but in the end I wanted to sound good and take it a bit more seriously. And I wanted to get into song writing and stuff. I feel like it all happened at the right time.
So what are your long term plans with music?
Leo Romero: I really don’t have any. It’s funny, I think of it as when I started skateboarding. I didn’t know what I was doing and then things started happening. It’s kind of just the way I am I guess. I just kind of go for it and see what happens. Don’t get me wrong, like anyone, I’d like to make money doing what I love to do. If that were to come about of course I’d me stoked.
Your sponsors are obviously psyched to have you going down this path because it gives some different exposure for them.
Leo Romero: They definitely think it’s a good thing because it’s just another outlet for them to reach people. They’re supporting me, which is a really cool thing.
What holds more weight for you now, skateboarding or music? For example, if you have a big gig would you blow off a tour with the team?
Leo Romero: I wouldn’t put off a tour. Doesn’t really come down to it now, they work with me in that sense. Sometimes the whole team can’t go because of a Vans trip or whatever, I feel like they work with me. But right now skateboarding is obviously priority.
Yeah, skateboarding is what’s paying the bills. So what do you think is it harder to come up in music or is it harder to come up in skateboarding?
Leo Romero: I think coming up in skateboarding now would be pretty fucking hard! There are a lot of similarities in music and in skateboarding. I think with music you have to be around a lot longer to be noticed. Where in skateboarding you can be at the skatepark killing and instantly become known. Put him on Nike! It’s a lot faster in skateboarding. In music there are a lot of fucking assholes. Not assholes, but people who work in bars and venues, like sound guys who have seen so many bands come through they get jaded. You kind of have to pay your dues and stuff.
Yeah they’ve seen it all. So has anyone given you shit, like “Ah, who’s this guy? Some pro skater trying to be a rock star?”
Leo Romero: I think there has been stuff said, you know, but basically you have to pay your dues. You can’t just go in there waving your fucking cock around.
Are you going to write the score for your future video parts?
Leo Romero: No I don’t think I would do that because I don’t think that I would write something for skateboarding. I know Josh Harmony writes music for video parts. It’s something that I’ve never tried but no one’s ever come to me about it.
How did you learn to play the guitar? Did you just pick it up and start fucking around with it? Did you get lessons or consult Youtube?
Leo Romero: My friend Adam Conway, the photographer, he’s a really good guitar player and he was staying with me for a while at my apartment. We were watching a Bob Dylan documentary and that’s when I really got into song writing, I didn’t know how to play guitar, I’m just going to write songs but he taught me three chords.
How do you approach song writing? Do things come to you in the middle of the night and you jot them down on a note pad or something?
Leo Romero: It happens both ways. Some stuff comes to me in my head when I’m thinking about writing a song but sometimes it takes a lot longer to finish. I’ve never written a song like instantly and it’s done. It’s really weird like some days you go skating and you have like a really fucking great feeling and other days you try a nollie-flip and land primo, music is the same way. There are so many similarities between skateboarding and music.
Yeah it’s like anything creative, sometimes you’re able to tap into the ether and get it and other times you can’t. Where do you think that creative spark comes from?
Leo Romero: Well yeah, if anyone knew the answer to that they would be the best.
What’s it like being a former SOTY?
Leo Romero: I get called SOTY 2010 a lot by my friends, they say, “You used to be Leo Romero”. And they say stuff like, “Remember in 2010 when you were good?”
Shit does that make you feel like your best is behind you? I mean, sometimes I get that feeling, like, “Man my best work has been done, what am I going to do now?”
Leo Romero: I don’t think it really matters that I got SOTY in 2010, I don’t think anyone remembers because skateboarding is so crazy and over saturated now. I don’t know if that is bad or good, I have no opinion on it. People complain about skateboarding now which is stupid. Even from that time till now skateboarding is completely different. I don’t mean this in a bad way because I love Thrasher and I’m definitely grateful for them giving me that and I’m honored to be apart of that elite group of skaters who have been Skater Of The Year. During that time I was most proud of the video parts that I put out. When I look back I’m most proud of that work; completing those two video projects so close together. I’m most proud of being able to accomplish that. Again, I’m not ungrateful for getting SOTY. I’m stoked that I got it because what I accomplished.
Right, it’s like an acknowledgement of your achievement.
Leo Romero: When I look back, I look back at finishing that work. That might have been my best work but I might get a hair up my ass to film something else. I don’t know if that’s going to be my best work, I didn’t know what was going to come out of that.
Shit we don’t know what the future holds; you could win a Grammy in 5 years; you could be a SOTY and a Grammy winner, we don’t know.
Leo Romero: Only time will tell.
I think we’re done, any last words?
Leo Romero: Shit thanks for the interview.