Skateboarding and Music: A Love Story


Deuce SkateboardingOn a typical day, one can tell from my torn up shoes, holey jeans, and elbow scars that I am a skateboarder.  When I clean up a bit and get a bassoon in my hands, it may not be as apparent.  I’ve been skateboarding since the 6th grade, right around when I started playing bassoon, and the two activities have complemented each other all along.  I became interested in skateboarding and bassoon through the same medium: movies. My love of bassoon stems from my first viewing of the “cantina band” scene in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope while laying in my parents' bed one summer night right around instrument try-outs for 6th grade band.  The band in the cantina, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, play strange instruments that I had never seen before.  My youthful curiosity led me to ask my dad what instruments they were playing, and the bassoon was the best answer he could come up with, shrugging his shoulders as he answered me.

As for skateboarding, I had always been interested in extreme sports because of video games, but I was more intrigued with the “bonus” videos that you could unlock by spending way too much time playing the game and finding all of the "secret tapes" hidden throughout the game.  The artistic way the videos were put together, the way the music lined up with the skateboarding, and the ease with which the best skateboarders seemed to pull off difficult tricks were all attractive qualities to Baby Deuce.  Adam Shomsky, a photographer, videographer, and electrical engineer, has filmed many incredible skateboarders (including some that I’ve looked up to) in a way that allows the viewer to see the artistic qualities of skateboarding (and the individual skateboarder) that happen much to quickly to be appreciated in real time to both skateboarding and non-skateboarding audiences. This video - shot by Adam Shomsky - features Portland, Oregon native, Elliot Murphy.  Note the art on Murphy's board and the effort by Shomsky to encapsulate Murphy's individual character in the short video.

Skateboarding is a perfect combination of film, photography, visual art, fashion, and music.  An entire culture has developed around skateboarding with many different styles based on region and upbringing.  For example, someone born in a city will most likely be more comfortable skating in the streets, using local architecture creatively to his or her advantage, while someone who grew up next to a skatepark with large ramps will likely develop a style that utilizes those ramps and pre-built structures creatively.  Then there are those who lie outside of the norm and develop their own styles that push skateboarding to new levels.  Sound familiar?

You may still be wondering why I continue to skateboard even when I have a career as a musician.  Some common questions are: What if you break your fingers?  What if you break your face?  What if you break the other parts of your head?  Are you afraid of breaking something?  Have you broken anything?  So I guess I'll answer all of those questions: I have fractured my big toe skateboarding, but that experience actually led me to grow as a musician.  Since I couldn't walk without feeling like my toe was lava, I was forced to spend more time practicing.  It’s true, skateboarding is dangerous and I do fall more than I would if I were sitting in a chair with a bassoon in my hands, but a large part of skateboarding is learning from one's falls, and the bad ones tend to teach you the quickest.

Much like music, one must learn from his or her mistakes and find a way to quickly minimize the amount of falling.  The difference is that a bad fall on a skateboard results in icing an ankle for a week or potential invasive surgery, while a bad "fall" during a musical performance is significantly easier to recover from: a nice Dragon’s Milk or PBR does the trick for me.  This reference level of the consequences of failure has helped me immensely in my music career, and being able to metaphorically get back on the board and brush off the last fall is just one of the invaluable skills that I attribute directly to my love of skateboarding.

Since skateboarding is an individual activity with no clear or quantifiable way to measure one’s success, one has to make and accomplish his or her own creative goals in order to be fulfilled (again, sound familiar?).  The concept of creativity for creativity’s sake is present in both skateboarding and music.  Also, the success of a skateboarding trick can depend on a minor change in one’s foot placement or shifting one’s weight slightly, and one must constantly be self-critical of his or her performance on a trick, or else he or she will be constantly reminded that he or she is doing it’ll fall and tear open your skin on the ground.  And if you don’t self-evaluate and fix your issue quickly, you’ll find yourself getting dirt in your wound as a constant reminder that YOU’RE TOTALLY DOING IT WRONG.

Check out all of the things that have to go right in order for this trick to be pulled off cleanly.  Total.  Control.

I reach a state of mental calmness when skateboarding, and I can't focus on all of my moving parts once they are in motion or else I'll slam the ground with my big, flailing arms.  This state of relaxed focus is something that I constantly work toward as a musician, and it's something that I know is possible thanks to skateboarding.

Obviously not everyone should skateboard, that's not the point of this article.  Although it would probably make skateboarding in downtown Chicago more acceptable to business owners, I am simply recounting my personal experiences with participating in activities that aren't necessarily related to my career choice.  I'm sure someone could create an equally intriguing blog about how potato cannons taught them how to knit better sweaters for depressed parakeets, and I'd love to read it.

I could talk about skateboarding for hours, and have some great stories to share from my years of skateboarding that I'd love to pass on to you.  If you're interested in hearing more or want to play a game of SKATE, talk to me after a show!

- Eric "Deuce" Heidbreder