Skateboarder Magazine – Leo Romero Interview – Oct/Nov 2012 Issue
Originally published in our Oct/Nov 2012 issue.
Words: Christian Senrud
Photos: John Bradford
When I start to worry about where skateboarding might be heading, I like to remind myself that we still have guys like Leo Romero out there guiding us along in the right direction. He’s no frills and no bullshit. While other people are chasing dollars and playing nice for the cameras, Leo’s on the sidelines flipping the bird to his buddies and talking trash in between murdering skate spots, unfazed by whether or not someone might take that the wrong way. While skateboarding waters itself down and tries to gain more outsider appeal, Leo’s the shot of whiskey that keeps us off kilter, honest and on our toes. And like whiskey, he might almost get the better of you at times, but just laugh it off, roll with the punches and remember that it’s all just skateboarding, and that it’s meant to be a good time.
What’s new with Toy Machine?
Not much, just figuring out what we’re going to do for a video and whatnot because everyone is working on a video for whatever company.
Does it feel like déjà vu a little bit working on Emerica and Toy videos at the same time?
Not really, it’s just kind of crazy now with the Internet. I like it actually. There’s a constant video project to work on, but it gets kind of hard to work with different filmers. It can get a little strange as opposed to working on the one project for a few years. Now it’s just, like, Neff’s working on a hat video. Bones is working on a bearings video. Everyone works on videos, you know?
Do you ever need a break from filming, or is it more like you’re going to be out skating anyway so might as well film it?
It’s actually better because you get to travel with different people. The process of figuring out which way your footage is going to go is the hard part, but I guess that’s what the editors and the filmers are for.
Has Ed added anyone new to the team recently?
I wish I could say some people, but I’m not too sure. I think there’s this guy, Blake. I don’t know if he’s on flow for Toy Machine or maybe something else at Tum Yeto, but I skated with him a couple times and he skates really sick and he’s a really cool dude. He’s rad, so look out for him.
You think with Mark Ecko cutting the Zoo York team, you guys might be able to pick up Brandon Westgate?
That’s been the plan for the past three years, but they got that guy under a strict contract where he can’t leave I guess.
What’s the story with you, him and a couple of the Emerica dudes all dying your hair blond on that trip a while back?
That is a stupid one. It was me, Heath and Jerry on this Emerica Outsiders trip, and I don’t know how it came about. We were at dinner, and Heath was asking Jerry, “You ever think about dying your hair blond again?” Since Heath brought it up, I’m guessing it’s something that he wanted to do. They were talking about it and Heath was like, “I’ll do it if you do it,” and Jerry’s said he’d do it, so I said I’d do it if they were doing it. So it kind of started out as something stupid, and then turned into trying to get everyone to do it. Everyone pretty much looked at us the same way they looked at us once we all actually had blond hair, like, “What the fuck are you guys talking about? This is stupid.” So we went and did it right before the trip, and we showed up, looking at each other, like, “Oh my God.” The coolest thing about it is that somebody told Brandon about it and didn’t really push it on him or anything. We were pushing it mainly on Jeff Henderson because he’s got one of those greaser guy haircuts, so it’d just be funny for him to have one. Unbeknownst to us, Brandon showed us up and had the bleach-blond hair, which was pretty rad.
He was just down.
Wasn’t he running the Top Gun/’80s bad-guy haircut, too?
Yeah. Someone had clippers and people were cutting their hair. The kids out there actually ran that hairstyle, the one he had, where you have the whole sides of your head shaved. It was kind of white trash ROTC style with the sides bald and a really bad mohawk. We were driving and stopped at a gas station and he was down so Miner gave it to him.
I saw those photos and was wondering if you guys were trying to blend in with the Aryans and Euros out there by being blond and having that Eurostyle look. I was down.
Yeah, it kind of made us stick out like sore thumbs actually. We looked like idiots. I mean, we looked like idiots before we even went out there, but people were just like, “Why’d you dye your hair blond?” By the fifth time of trying to explain it, I was just like, “What are you talking about? My hair is naturally like this.”
Did you dye the ’stache too?
No, I should’ve done that and the eyebrows. That would have been really weird.
It would turn some heads. So, is Westgate Bro Style or is he under contract elsewhere?
Even if he is, he’s still Bro Style. I think he’s on Bro Style.
Unofficially but officially?
Yeah, pretty much. Everyone’s unofficially but officially on, though.
How did this movement come about?
Basically, I went on a Vans trip. It wasn’t originally a Vans trip. Daniel Lutheran wanted to get a bunch of people to go out to his parents’—if you haven’t been, you’re missing out. He gathered a bunch of people and, basically, ran it through Vans. Luckily, I was still able to go. So we were out there and it was super fun. It was just a trip that I don’t get to go on that often with a bunch of guys that I don’t get to see ever like Chima Ferguson. So Daniel’s dad barbeques for everyone and we’re all drinking whiskey and I’m talking to Griffin Collins [Vans assistant TM] and I said, “Man, this is fucking awesome. I wish there was a way where we could always go on trips with random people. I wish there was a company we could start where we go on trips with all the bros and just have fun with it, have everyone involved. Griffin says, “Dude, a griptape company. Everyone can get on!” So we got to thinking, “All right, how do we do this? What do we call it?” We were basically saying that we wished we could do other bro-style trips, so that just fit as a name. We started talking about it and who we could get on the team and everyone on the trip was down. It just spawned from that: getting drunk at a barbeque, wanting to hang out with all different types of friends on skate trips.
The best things have simple starts.
Yeah, that’s it for something so complex as Bro Style.
What kind of other stuff will Bro Style offer, a bunch of polo shirts with pre-popped collars and white baseball caps?
We’re pretty much going all out. It’s actually turning into a more of a clothing and everything brand and not just griptape, to be honest. I think griptape was just an excuse to make stupid shit.
What kind of stupid shit?
I don’t know. We have paddles. I haven’t seen the catalog in a little. There’s beach towels, cool shirts, socks, just random little knick-knacky shit that griptape companies make and people have in catalogs to catch people’s eye.
Is Bro Style your response to Shake Junt?
No, not at all. I love all those guys. We’re just doing something where we can hang out with a bunch of other people.
You’re part owner though, right?
Yeah, it’s 50-50 between me and Griffin Collins, and it’s through Tum Yeto.
And you’re also part owner of Eswic.
Yeah, a little bit.
Do you have any role in that other than riding for it and owning a little part of it?
Yeah, I’m the director.
What does being the director entail?
I don’t know; that’s just the title they give you. I guess when you own a piece of something, they give you a title and that’s my title, the director.
How long have you and Jimmy been buds?
We’ve been friends probably since I was 16. Long time.
Is he your favorite TM?
I don’t have a favorite, but he’s a really good friend of mine.
Did you learn your shit-talking skills from him?
No, I have two older brothers and my dad was an asshole. Well, he wasn’t an asshole; he was just kind of craze, so I guess I just learned how to be verbal from them. I think Jimmy noticed that I could make fun.
Have you guys ever completely ruined anyone in the van, just leveled them with a zinger?
Nah, it’s all in good fun. I never intentionally mean any of the stuff I say. I’m not maliciously trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. It happens because you’re on a trip, having a good time in a van and inevitably someone’s going to get angry for any reason. People get angry for eating at Subway more than five times, you know? People are fucking babies on trips, but it’s never the intention to not have someone be your friend or something. People we travel with, we’re on teams with and we’re friends with. I think on a trip anything can set someone off, and the right joke just does the trick. Or the wrong joke.
Or sometimes people who don’t fight back kind of get it a little harder as a result.
Sometimes but, I mean, it’s more or less if you’re being a baby. It’s kind of a way to notice it. What I noticed from Jimmy’s attitude toward stuff like that when I was really young and on RVCA trips, I remember being angry and frustrated, trying to get a trick, and Jimmy would yell, “Someone get this guy a tampon!” And you realize, yeah, why am I getting mad? This is stupid. I’m on a trip with my friends and I’m crying because I want to go get In-N-Out or something? I mean, we’ve all been in that position. Every skateboarder, whether it’s the tough guy or the quiet guy, has been in a position where they whine over something stupid. That’s a way to put it out there where you remember, “Yeah, what the fuck’s my problem?” It’s not always perceived that way, so sometimes you just look like a dick.
Has anyone wanted to fight you over any of you helping remind them?
Johnny tried to fight me recently.
What happened there?
I was making fun of him, teasing him, and he’d had enough, which anyone would. He kind of got in my face. It was one of those things where it was like, “I’m sorry, man.” It wasn’t anything too serious. He’d just had enough.
Is that where “I will end you!” came from?
“I will end you”?
Didn’t he pull you out of the van and say, “I will end you”?
No, he never said that. I would have started laughing my ass off if he’d said that. He just came up to me and grabbed me by the neck and came really close to me. Right then I thought I was going to get fucked up, but I was ready for it, I guess.
Were you going to fight back or just take it?
I wasn’t going to fight him. I wasn’t angry. How can you fight someone when you’re not angry? I was just thinking I was going to get my ass beat right there. He put his hand around my neck and said, “I don’t want to have to do this right now.” Then he took his hand off my neck, hugged me and just said, “You just make me so mad sometimes,” and I was like, “Johnny, we should be shirtless right now because we’re hugging.” He was fine after that. I told him I was sorry and that I was just joking. He said he gets pissed. It is what it is, just being on trips.
You get worn out traveling sometimes, and tensions wear when you don’t have time to relax.
Yeah, and I do understand that I make a lot of jokes.
You think he’s got your back if you get into a fight now?
I fucking hope so. He’d be the only help I would get.
Wasn’t there a fight a while back where you got beat up and some of your team just stood there?
That was a long time ago. It was in Denver. I’m not sure what happened because I was getting my face and ribs kicked in, but I guess there were so many people that they were trying to get them off me and couldn’t control it. Josh was trying to get people off me and when that was happening people would sneak a kick to my face or ribs.
I was curious if there was some resentment still, if that’s why they got left behind on RVCA.
Ha ha! That would be cool if he’d let me get my ass kicked for that.
Was anybody super bummed that they weren’t part of the initial move to Eswic?
I don’t think I’m at liberty to say. We did what we could with what we had to get the people we got. It wasn’t any sort of attack or anything. I think Jimmy had an idea of what he wanted to do, and certain things happened at RVCA that made him feel he wanted to get out of there and follow through with his idea. When it came down to it, you can’t go in with everyone and ask someone to leave something where they’re getting a full salary and getting taken care of. It wouldn’t be fair to them. Of course, we’d want to have everyone on the team. It’s such a tight crew, but we did what we could. I hope people weren’t sour at all. That would suck. We weren’t trying to take everyone and make it weird in that sense. It was just a new thing, and with any new thing in skateboarding you’re going to get people off other companies. It just happened that the majority of us all rode for this other same clothing company.
With owning your own companies now and being more established as a pro, do you feel more secure about your future?
I don’t really feel secure. Not to take away from any of that, but companies can go under and I can break my back falling down the stairs today. You could lose any of this at any time. Not that I’m not grateful, I just don’t want to take it for granted. I’m grateful but I don’t feel like I can sit back and relax for a few years and rely on my little piece of ownership of a company.
Do you have any long-term goals or are you taking it as it comes and not blowing it like an ’80s rock star or something?
Yeah, I’m just trying to do what I can with what I got and keep it for as long as I can and then eventually take Heath’s job.
Be his protégé?
Eventually just become a team manager because that job seems easy enough.
And just rip with the bros forever.
There you go.
It seems like all the companies you ride for are based off friendships more than a dollar amount. Has that been a conscious thing or is that just how it’s been because your friends are the guys running the companies you want to ride for?
I think from the beginning just wanting to ride for Emerica and thinking it was the coolest. And it was the coolest when I was a kid. It still is. That luckily happened. With Foundation and Baker, I felt close to those people too, but it worked out with Toy Machine. With Tum Yeto and Emerica and Baker and that realm, it was kind of mixed together because I’ve always known those people. I ended up at Toy Machine by chance, and luckily they were awesome enough to let me on their team. I was on Emerica since the beginning, so I feel like I grew up with them. People have a board company they always have, and I feel like that was my board company in a sense. I just always stuck with Emerica, and it was my identity in a way. I was trying to find the board company that would suit me best, and luckily I got on Toy Machine, which is funny because my first sponsor-me video was for Toy Machine. Ed never watched it and Beagle stole it and put me on Foundation. It went full circle and I got on Toy Machine.
It’s funny how life works like that sometimes.
Yeah, it is.
Have you ever had any odd offers that you had to turn down because it was too corny?
No, I’ve never really been offered anything.
Is it because you don’t have an agent? Are you blowing it in that regard?
I don’t know. I’ll take some offers, I’d love to hear them, but, yeah, I’ve never been offered anything really.
Would you do Street League?
I don’t think it’d be fun for too long. That’s hard to say because they’re not offering me the five grand every time I’d show up. I doubt they’d ever offer it to me, so I don’t think I have to worry about that.
Have you gotten any flak from your last interview with us where you said that you made more money than Chris Cole and P-Rod combined and they could suck your dick?
No, I didn’t. I feel bad for saying that because Chris interviewed me when I was drunk and I was on a trip and just joking around. With Chris, I kind of know him and we go off the same jokey shit-talky vibe, and I was pretty comfortable. It came out and I saw it and thought, “Fuck, that’s kind of lame,” because Chris Cole and P-Rod are both really nice, awesome dudes. I hope they weren’t offended by it. It was totally a joke. It was just funny because I opened up the interview and that was the quote and I was like, well shit. They’re way better than me and probably make way more money, so they were probably both just laughing all the way to the bank when that came out.
How about from giving Weezy the thumbs-down frowny face at Tampa?
Not really. I didn’t get any guff from it. As I was leaving Tampa, people were, like, “Yeah! We fucking hate rap!” and I guess that’s cool. I wasn’t really trying to make a statement or anything. The guy handed me the trophy and talked to me like I was a child receiving my fifth grade diploma, saying, “Hey, good job! Well done out there!” and I just thought, “Who the fuck is this crazy person?” So I thought it’d be funny to give him a thumbs down and people were like, “That’s fucking hilarious.” It was just a stupid thing that I did that ended up working out for me.
Was it hard skating Tampa with Koston calling you a faggot during your run?
I didn’t know he was. It obviously didn’t make a difference. I smoked his ass at Tampa.
Is your guys’ beef still strong?
Yeah, it’s still alive and well. No, there really was no beef; we’re fucking bros. He’s just the funniest motherfucker, man.
So it wasn’t awkward when you were the guest pro on King of the Road?
No, not at all. That’s what people seem to not understand. People think I actually dislike the dude when it’s quite the opposite. I respect him and kind of look up to him as a skater. He’s Eric Koston, you know? I know him, so we just go back and forth. He’s friends with Jimmy as well, so it’s just like any type of bullshit you’d come up with on a skate trip. Now kids can see that interaction and some kids find that really weird. Just imagine being on a month-long trip and throwing some teenager in the middle of it and having him think that we’re all assholes to each other and crazy. It’s the same idea, just with the Internet you can see what everyone’s saying to each other.
Just a lot of voyeurism and things getting taken out of context.
Yeah, it’s like if you were making a racist joke with your buddy and you throw a random black person or Mexican or whatever in there and they’re like, “Whoa, you’re racist!” And it’s just no, we were making a joke and you caught the tail end of it. It’s a weird place for kids to see pros interact when they don’t know how friendly we are to each other.
Do people sometimes have false assumptions of you based on that kind of thing or from interviews? Is that something you’ve come across when you meet people in the real world?
I think so, but if a kid talks to me, I’ll talk to him. I try to be nice to everyone; I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure a kid’s caught me on a bad day or sometime maybe skating by and trying to get my attention and I don’t look up or whatever and rub them the wrong way. I’ve heard people come up to me and say, “Whoa, I heard you’re an asshole, but you’re really nice,” and I’m just like, “What? Who said I’m an asshole? Where did that come from?” People probably think that or think the opposite as well. I don’t try to be an asshole on purpose. I just like to joke around and have fun.
People will take things however they want.
Some people are defensive regardless of anything. Some people are just weird fucking pussies that take everything serious, even themselves, so they can’t put themselves outside of that. I can’t really help that. I’m still going to be myself.
Is there a lot that you do take seriously?
I take things seriously. I take my career seriously, but at the same time I’m not going to be a sad sap and not enjoy myself. Of course I take it seriously. If I didn’t, I’d be not skating as much and being a total loser to my sponsors or something. I’m out there as much as I can every day because A: I love it and B: when I started skateboarding I wasn’t with my friends at the skatepark, like, “All right! This try!” with my headphones on trying to get my last trick in my friend’s video. I was having fun, talking shit with my friends. That’s the way it started, so I don’t see why it would change. Then it wouldn’t be that fun anymore. I like skating with friends, making fun of them, they make fun of me, one of them falls, we all laugh, and we go home, watch the footage, talk shit about what happened that day. To me, I just try to keep it as it was when I first started skating. I don’t want to not have fun.
Keep it simple and remember why you started doing this.
Yeah, you see in skate videos people saying, “Toward the deadline, I fucking hated the filmer; I couldn’t talk to anyone,” and it’s just, like, what the fuck is wrong with you? Are you kidding me? This is a dream job. Why can’t you talk to these people? It’s a stressful time but it’s still fun.
You’re both just trying to do your jobs.
Yeah, that and why does it have to be turned into something like that? Why does it have to be like, “I’m going out skating tonight, but you guys can’t come because I want to get this one trick.” If anything, it’s you should come;
I want to watch you guys skate. I just don’t see the sense in making things something they shouldn’t be.