Skateboarding has always had close ties to music. Skate-videos themselves rely pretty heavily on it. Certain parts stand out, because of their music. Certain skate sessions are burned into our memories, because of a specific track playing from the boom-box that night. So, it is natural that some of us who skate also play music. Chuck Treece is not only that, but someone who in the 1980's excelled at skateboarding with a truly unique and memorable prescience while also excelling at music; to almost legendary status. Chuck is a true well rounded man of culture and substance. He has seen skateboarding grow up, fall down, come back, recycle trends, and he's never stopped rolling his own way no matter what the skate world was eating up at that hot-moment. Traveling for skating and music over the last 35+ years has not phased him one bit. In fact, he might be more juiced than ever. He is the recipient of a Pew Charitable Trust Fellowship in The Arts for his long creative work history in skateboarding and music. That work includes not only being the first black skateboarder from Philadelphia to turn pro, but also being a founding member of Philly skate-rock band McRad, and playing along side the Bad Brains, Sting, Pearl Jam, and Tommy Guerrero throughout his career. The name PUSHER sums up Chuck pretty well; the guy is always going for it, he always has. He's non-stop traveling, moving and shaking, and jamming away with a smile on his face the whole time. The guy radiates positive vibes and skate culture from his pours. I'm proud that Chuck hails from the Tri-State; he's been a truly great ambassador for what we respect and take pride in here.
You are in fact originally from Newark, DE. What was it like growing up there back in the day (1970's) and what brought you to Philly in those early years of skating and music? How did you find skateboarding?
- My mom lived in Philly and my Dad in DE, so I had both cities to grow-up in while learning to ride skateparks and ramps. I skated a bunch of parks early on with that rage-of-the-70's lifestyle. It was common back then for skaters to regularly travel pretty far to skate their favorite parks. Skateboarding will always be a word-of-mouth family, so when you heard something was going on you figured out how to get there. We as skaters are always on the go, non-stop. Even if its just to pick up your kids now, AKA myself with rug-rats.
During the 1980's what was the Tri-State skate scene like? Obviously, vert skating was a lot bigger at the time, so what role did the backyard ramp scene play in skating and your skateboarding in particular? Is there a ramp from back in the day that isn't around now that you wish you could bring back?
- Skateboarding in the 80's was super fun, but raw at the same time...it wasn't easy. Ramps would be found in all sorts an shapes back then...along with the state of skateboarding at the time too. There were changes going on in skating then, just like now. Wheels were changing then, boards, the scenes too...the people were changing it heavily. Backyard ramps have always been around, but in the 80's a good amount started getting built a lot better. No ramp in particular, but that time itself was rad. The Tri-State area creates great skateboarders, driven skateboarders, because back then you had to travel around to skate and be apart of it. We are all really products of, or culturally influenced by the roots of skating from the 80's. I'm honored to be from here,and apart of this scene. The energy is still around, and it is a big responsibility for the current skateboard-family to carry on here. Man, if anything...I wish we just had warmer weather.
Who were you riding for back then when skating was so spread out and a bit disconnected?
- I went AM for Santa-Cruz back then and that was hands down my favorite time riding for a skate brand. I had so much respect for what those guys at NHS had done for skating and the industry. I later rode for Madrid Skateboards when I turned pro, and then I headed over to SG (aka Sure Grip boards) to continue my pro career. I was on Thunder Trucks through all that, and back then OJ wheels too. OJ's wheels were so sick back then, one of the first wheels back then that felt good on all terrain.
It seems that even at that time you were traveling a lot eh?
- Yeah for sure, I was traveling not just on the East. I was probably traveling more than a lot of kids even now honestly. Like I said, in the Tri-State at that time you had to take the train, or hustle a ride, or take a bus to connect to the scene(s) to skate.
You were also sponsored by AIRWALK during that era, which was a time when most amateur or professional skaters did not have shoe sponsors at all. That company and Etnies changed the game of skate shoe footwear forever. What was it like to be apart of that? The shoes were totally different than the ones now obviously, but they were some of the first to really take the risks and push what defined the skateboard-footwear genre.
- I loved AIRWALK. At that time they worked so well for what I was skating, and especially being on the East with Winter...they just worked for us. A lot of ramp skaters rocked them hard, and that was a big part of my career. It was the best riding for them back then, they really looked out for us and took care of us. I know they changed up later on, but my generation has some rad classic skate kicks and memories to look back on, so that's cool.
You've been playing music for pretty much the same amount of time that you've been skateboarding. Did they naturally go hand-in-hand for you? Which did you discover first?
- Music was first, at the age of two to be exact. By age six I had a legit drum kit. By age 8 I was playing my first shows with my father and his band down in Chester, PA at Boots and Bonnets. Skateboarding and music are one for me; once skating came along it just made sense to have access to both. I want to ride skating and music off into the clouds, staying on the ride as long as possible.
Not only were you a founding and current member of the Philly skate-rock punk band McRad, but a huge portion of your musical career has been as a session-musician. For those reading who may not know what that is please tell them, because that side of the music industry has allowed you to play along side artists like The Bad Brains and Billy Joel, which is pretty remarkable.
- Being a session musician is like cooking food. Depending on how or what you eat governs how you're gonna' cook right? Music is the same way. If you want to play for this type or with this person you simply have to play and record a lot. The choices are endless with ways to be musically creative. Session-work really helps me with live music shows; it allows me to treat the recording studio like a theater. It takes a lot of time to understand that music of all genres takes constant attention (sessions) and work to really be a professional at it. Make sense?
In more recent years you've spent a lot of time playing along side Tommy Guerrero on some of his solo projects as well as in the band you have together called BLK TOP Project ( BLK TOP is Tommy G, Matt Rodriguez, Chuck Treece, Ray Barbee, and Josh Lippi). The music in that realm is different than what you are known for with say a band like McRad, which begs the question what music gets you the most stoked? What do you enjoy playing the most? Any East Coast BLK TOP tours in the future?
- A BLK TOP tour out East would be nice. Timing is the situation; getting everyone on the same schedule is the real challenge. All the guys in BLK TOP come from long traditions of respecting all types of music, so they are some of the best to jam with. I like being creative...I love playing music, so if I can handle the music-task I'm simply down to learn it and play it.
In the 80's you got the cover of Thrasher Mag with one of the most iconic cover layouts of all time. Did you know the photo was going to be sent to Thrasher? What was it like to become the first black skater to grace the cover of Thrasher; was the significance of that something that resonated with you at the time?
- The front cover design was something motivated by Thrasher. Tom Groholski and I created this new backyard scene at the time and Glen Friedman showed up to take photos. Glen was one of the best at the time and was the perfect guy to have on a session. It was just tons of fun to be skating there and to be photographed by one of the best to shoot in that era. That really helped out our scene a lot. Everyone started pushing their limits a lot more cuz' we were entering the cusp of the era where Sean Miller and Baker Barrett were ripping. I wasn't even concerned about being black at the time, it was hard enough just being a skateboarder. Someone actually had to tell me later on it was in fact the first cover with a black skater. About 20 years later I realized it at this event in LA called "As We Roll", which was an event honoring ethnic skateboarders and their impact on the culture.
You and McRad actually released a Nike Dunk colorway based off that Thrasher cover and the band's history in skateboarding. How did it feel to create that shoe?
- I designed that sneaker with Jerguen from Berlin and Kevin over at Nike SB. It took about 8 or 9 months to get things sorted out and then finally it all fell into place. It was fun, good people to work with. To have my childhood band on such an iconic sneaker will forever bring a smile to my face.
- Yoga is truly a major part and having my family around me; I'm stoked on the situation I've been able to create. Skateboarding, travel, and music are the best. I have met amazing people in my travels and hope to meet many more in the future, so that's a big motivator right there. I do have a strict diet and I stick to it in order to keep my body working at its best. I am constantly asking people about new ways to live and eat healthy, so I can continue to do this for as long as possible.
Your son is a young skateboarder, and he also plays some instruments as well. In particular, he's quite good at the drums. Have you guys recorded or played shows together? Has music always been a family affair with you?
- I have always had the kids jam out with me. We do live recording sessions; I'll engineer and then set up headphones and let the kids hear the sounds in the room. Then we would move on to talking into the mic and then singing. They've grown up around it their whole lives. My son Kieran has been serious about music since about age 2. They just grew up in the world of music studios and live shows. Skateboarding as well, so they would be likely to pick that up too. Music is good for a family. My son and I are recording some stuff for my new record, so I'm definitely stoked on that.
What's on your list to tackle in the new year? Any thanks or shout-outs before we wrap this one up?
- I am working on a website that will host all the music that I have created and played along side skateboarding over the years. I have a new LP that I'm working really hard on too. I have a board coming out in 2017 with Remy Stratton's company Pocket-Pistols, and yeah just keeping the groove going man. Shout-outs and thanks to Pusher Wheels for the guest wheel and all the other companies that have helped me out including PRS Guitars, Eminence, Pocket Pistols, Joey at ACE Trucks and Diamond Supply, Adidas Skateboarding, Placid Audio, Hazelrigg Industries, The Wilmington Skate Park Project, my loving family, and of course coffee.