Behind the Lens with Brandon Alton
If you are looking to get inspired and motivated, then you’ve come to the right place. Brandon Alton is a prolific photographer...
Picking up from where we left off last week, we end up at Jason Dill’s part in Habitat’s 2003 video, Mosaic. All of you youngin’s are probably wondering why Jason Dill, who never rode for Habitat, is in a Habitat video. Well, believe it or not, there was a time when people weren’t all that concerned with only riding and wearing their sponsors products and only appearing in sponsor-approved videos. But alas, the world turns and business interests prevail, for now.
-The first mental image I get when thinking about this part is Dill wearing those DVS pro models of his, which he mentions in his recent Bobshirt interview were in fact based on a women’s Prada shoe. They were pretty out there, but hey, good for him for pushing the envelope, even if it didn’t really stick. Apparently the soles didn’t stick that well over time either.
-The interlude at Hubba Hideout before the actual intro to the part is just rad. It’s the kind of random, hilarious moment that stands out more than a lot of tricks in parts. It’s off the cuff and the kind of the thing that you hope makes more skaters let their guard down on screen sometimes and get weird. And also a note to filmers to keep it rolling, because you never know what you might catch.
-“The Way We Get By” by Spoon kicks in and we find ourselves in the back seat with a smoking Dill. It’s a cool shot, even if the timing puts it a bit on the nose with the lyrics.
-We find Dill now skating the pool he was ripping around in earlier with AVE. See photo evidence of the Pivot Fakie thanks to The Chrome Ball Incident:
-There’s a lot to like about this clip and photo. There’s the dusty pink shirt with the light green screenprint. There are the pink wheels. Why pink? Are they soft? What’s that board? It doesn’t really look like any Alien or Habitat board from that time that I can think of. If anything it looks more like a present day FA board. Lastly, you don’t see may sets of Ventures inside backyard pools these days. That’s a cool look.
-The casual coffin position set up while the Don Pendleton-inked title scrawls onto the screen. Don and Dill have a tight relationship, and Don has said in a few interviews that he always gave what he felt was the best graphic from a series to Dill. Here’s a photo of Dill at Don’s house some years ago, along with an old AWS ad, again from CBI:-Since the part is basically all lines, I was guessing that the opening trick was something on flatground, like a Heelflip, at that foundation spot he frequents in this part. I mean, I knew there were the pool clips with the pivot and pivot fakie. I did not remember the grind on the banana board and even after that I was wrong about the flatground.
-Chilling in Philly, skating the Brian Wenning deck that Habitat reissued last year:
-The part kicks off here, dropping us into some sort of wide open foundation or plaza spot, with an array of benchs, ramps, and junk. Until a couple of years ago I thought this place was just a rundown plaza in the middle of some European city. Turns out it’s right in the middle of downtown Los Angeles.-As Dill said in his recent Bobshirt interview, he had a few reasons for aspiring to make a part consisting of all lines. There was a lot of inspiration from Tim & Henry’s Pack of Lies, and there was also the realization that he could eat up a lot of time in his part if he strung together long lines, rather than the quick banger edits that were popular in skateboarding at the time, and still are to an extent. His idea is proven to be immediately successful with an opening line that consists of two tricks and eats up 20 seconds.
-We move from there to some classic LA schoolyard action, starting with some slick bench trickery, followed a dope Heelflip. He’s still got a good one. The line then meanders across a bank, harkening back to skateboarding’s early days of surfing asphalt banks and sidewalks when the waves weren’t pumping, brah, before ending with a blasting Backside Flip over a set of bleachers.
-Back to the foundation spot, and around here I got to thinking: there are some connections that can be drawn from this part between Steve Berra and Jason Dill, two people who, outside of being teammates on Alien Workshop, most of us probably never thought about together until Dill’s comments about Berra being “upriver”, and the subsequent fallout between Berra and Alien Workshop.
In Mosaic, Dill comes through with a part composed entirely of lines, as you have noticed and I have pointed out, most of this in empty lots and yards with a variety of modular obstacles. After that, he heads to Barcelona to string together some lines at a quasi-skatepark. Berra, his then-Alien Workshop teammate who just appeared in the part prior to this, sees the praise this part gets, and when the time comes for him to work on his part for Skate More, released in 2005, a video in which Jason Dill also has a part, Berra takes some cues from Dill, creating elaborate bench, stair, and hubba spots to make the filming of his part easier, presumably because he was going under the knife for surgery and was also in the early stages of building The Berrics. Is the main difference between the parts just that Dill didn’t try to disguise the spots he was skating, whereas Berra may have taken notes while working on Hollywood sets and used some of the knowledge he picked up to build legitimate looking spots?
-Also of note, as mentioned earlier, Dill is skating to “The Way We Get By” by the Texas-based band Spoon, who’s frontman is Brit Daniel. The same year that this song came out, on their 2002 album Kill The Moonlight, Daniel also released a split EP with Conor Oberst of the band Bright Eyes, who are from Nebraska. Dill has mentioned various times over the years that he’s a big fan of Oberst and Bright Eyes. In the DVS video Skate More that came out after Mosaic, Nebraska-native Steve Berra skated to “Birth” by The Faint, another band from Nebraska. Before forming The Faint, all of the members were in another another band called Norman Bailer, which included Oberst as a member.
-So, maybe if Dill and Berra had just connected sometime in the early 2000s over a shared love of music from Nebraska, Berra could have brought his yellow flatbars to film at this spot alongside Dill, and then Dill could have Feeble grinded the Allstate sign in Skate More, and they’d have floated along happily next to each other down the river. Maybe they’d have even landed some acting gigs together. Maybe now we’d even have a Berra class photo board. Maybe it could have been this photo. But as we know, none of this happened, and I’m just hypothesicizing about the past.
-I don’t know if it’s just a snippet of a clip that I’ve seen used a lot over the years, but when I think of this part, for some reason this section of him slamming on the Fakie Flip, followed by the board discus toss always comes to mind. After the successful Fakie Flip comes what I think of as a signature Jason Dill trick: the Fakie Frontside Shuv-it. While this is just a quick flatground one, minor compared to the one he pops in Photosynthesis, I think of it because it’s an odd trick, and one that both a friend and I learned when we were young after hearing or reading Dill say in an interview that it was the first trick he liked to do every time he went skating, because it felt good and no one else really did them.
-Damn does he ever pinch that Front Crook in nicely. Seems like kind of a perfect bench for locking one of those into.
-The next line starts with a Backside Heelflip, an awkward trick for many that can end of looking like shit for many more. Dill’s got a good one, and so did his buddy, Dylan Rieder. Listen to Dill and Bill Strobeck, who filmed all of this Mosaic part, talk about Dylan’s Backside Heelflip over a picnic table and then Switch Backside Heelflip over a picnic table line in Cherry.
-That Backside Heelflip set us off on another patient 20 second line, this time with 3 tricks and one shirt check. It should be clear by the fact that I chose to write about this part, but in no way am I knocking him for these long lines. This is some of my favourite skateboarding right here.
-My favourite trick he does on the curved bench is undoubtedly the Fakie 5-0. The Backside Smith grind is pretty tight too:
-While I understand and sometimes agree with the Ricky Oyola rule of “why do something to fakie if you are just going to turn back around right after”, for example, something about the quick fakie turnarounds that Dill does in this part are just cool. They make it seem a bit more spontaneous, maybe. Anyway, it’s interesting that he does the fakie 5-0, turns around, and then passes by the launch to guardrail that he’s going to Feeble/Smith in 15 seconds after he gets a good head of steam at it. And then it’s just so good that he still goes for the Nollie Backside 180 even though he’s all wobbly while setting up for it. Ending a line on a slam is always cool.
-With that being the last line at the foundation spot, check this snippet from Dill’s recent Bobshirt interview where he talks about asking Alien Workshop co-founder Chris Carter about flying Bill out to LA to film with him, and having Carter say that he knows he just wants a buddy to drink with. Out of spite, Dill didn’t drink at all for months, and what we saw prior to this in the part was the resulting footage from that sober-streak. This is not the first time Carter was able to motivate Dill for a video part.
-Now we transition to those brick banks in LA (sorry, I don’t know all the school spot names) where the line starts out with a 5-0 to fakie, which is a pretty sick way to make a classic miniramp trick more abrupt and challenging. But when it comes to Dill at this spot, I like his ender in Skate More even more:
-We get some musical silence and just the clickety clack of the bricks through this line, and then transition nicely to him pushing throw a doorway in some glassy building.
-This has to be a nod to Daniel Gesmer, right?
-Any chance that these dates and times aren’t made up and that that’s the actual plane he flew to Barcelona on:
-Another Spoon song kicks in here, and it’s “Someone Something” from the same album as “The Way We Get By”. You could probably draw some parallels between the lyrics and what Dill’s life was probably like at the time. You could also draw some parallels between all of that and where the next few lines are filmed.
-This Switch Frontside 360 is mental, and only when I went frame by frame to pull a screenshot did I realize that part of what makes it look so wild is that the board nearly Heelflips:
-The run and jump to 50-50 seems like just a quick novelty clip, but if you look at the sequence it looks a lot more scary then it seemed on video:
-I like how he seems to not catch Nollie Backside Heelflips until they’ve gone the full 180. Same as the one earlier over the picnic table, but this flatground one is a more extreme example.
-I’m pretty sure that up until this video part I didn’t know that this was all one spot. I knew about the ledges and manual pads, and I knew about that stage ledge and the benches to go over, but I didn’t know that these were at the same spots, so when he lands the Nollie Backside Heelflip and then pushes beyond that dividing wall, I was quite surprised to see this mini-forest of ledges and manny pads.
-His kit in the last line of the part, maybe the inspiration for Nick Jensen’s kit here? It’s hard to tell what the actual colours are, but what the heck, let’s just say maybe so to tie a few things together.
-And that’s it, the door closes, and we’ll pick it up next week with Pops.