Hailing from Northern California, Matt Rodriguez has been creatively killing it for decades. He is a highly respected skater amongst many OG rippers in the industry. He's been a part of incredible, and culturally significant, skateboarding brands such as Stereo, Supernaut, Diamond, and IPATH footwear. Not only that, but he has been a professional musician for much of the same time as well; playing along side Tommy Guerrero for most of it. Known for pretty much his whole career as the man with the loosest trucks, he has given the world a plethora of uniquely executed photos and footage. Originality and pure enjoyment come to mind in regards to his skating. Matt was once quoted saying, "If skateboarding were a contest then he who has the most fun wins." Words like that are very important, especially for the current state of skateboarding and skateboard media. Matt keeps it real 100% of the time. He's from the old-guard that pretty much created the ground work for modern street skating and he's still out there pushing. Matt is pure skateboarding, real skateboarding, and a truly unique individual on and off his board.
-Where are you originally from? Where do you reside and skate now?
I was born in San Jose, CA. Sacramento, CA is the city where I dwell now; been here 30 years.
-Why have you chosen to remain in Sacramento for so long? What are the special things about that city that keep you there and make it unique?
It's where I really took off with my skateboarding career honestly. The things that make SAC unique are the mellow everyday people, and pace of life here. As well as all the trees and nature we have inside the inner city.
-You've always had a profoundly different and personal approach to skateboarding. Who influenced you the most in terms of skating when you were growing up and what gets you stoked now?
The skaters that influenced me the most would be Gonz, Tommy G, and most of my day to day friends growing up skating here in SAC that supported me and pushed my limits of skating. I have a great thirst for always trying to come up with some shuffles I haven't seen yet, or build off in some way of what has been done by guys that get me stoked. It really is endless as far as what can be done and expressed on a skateboard, so I'm always and forever searching.
- You are also a very well known and credited musician. Who has inspired you over the years in that realm?
When it comes to musical influences I would definitely say Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Carlos Santana, Billy Cobham, Michael Shrieve, Elvin Jones, John Lee Hooker, and John McLaughlin
- How do you not get bodied doing the bs-180 to wheelie 180 out thing (Stereo Tincan Folklore video)? My friends and I growing up always tried it and kept eating shit or never could commit to getting the timing right. How did that one come about [question from Pusher team rider Jeremiah Babb]?
Ohhhhhh, that bona-fide strugg-shuffle? I used to call that one the Mexican U-Turn and you just gotta give yourself whiplash!
-Did/do you continue to personally design your board shapes? You've gone through phases and skated popsicle shapes, football shapes, shovel nose, block-head shapes, etc. What about changing it up do you like so much?
Yes for sure indeed. Over the years I have done some shapes that for the time period(s) were "out of the box", but most definitely I was behind them all. I just get bored with the run-of-the-mill and I have to try different shapes to stoke me out on skating and feed the creative fire.
-Is it true that you designed the Cats shoe for IPath? The rumor is that it was supposed to be their first pro-model and your's at that, but they later decided to just issue it as a team model. Gotta' say it is still one of the raddest and most unique skateboard shoes of all time. They later gave you an official pro-model version of it, but it was a vulcanized style instead right?
Yup for sure, I gave IPATH the Cat name and the design idea to do as one of the first 3 shoes we put out for the brand (The Grasshopper, Buffalo, and Cats). Obviously it was just taken from a Clark's Wallabee boot, but nobody had ever tried to put a skateboarding sole on anything like that before, or a bit of padding to make it functional to ride in. It was also rad just for the simplicity of it. You know, it had the easy-on-the-eyes looks, which was what we were going for with IPATH. Yeah they had held out for years until they finally made a Cat model with my name on it (the "Cat-Rod"), better late than never eh?
-What other shoes have been your favorite to skate in over the years?
My top shoes to roll in gotta' be the Es Sal Barbier's, Vans Chukka's, Chuck T Converse, Vans Cabs, and last but not least that IPATH Gato (that's the Cats, duh').
-After your time on the original Stereo Skateboards you spent some time on Supernaut, which was an awesome short-lived brand with tons of rippers like Paul Sharpe, Will Harmon, Matt Pailes, Carlos Young, Trevor Prescott, Tony Cox, Steve Young, and Chris Head. How was that era and filming for their videos Infinite-Momentum and Urban-Canvas? How and why did the company end, and did you return to Stereo directly after that?
After I quit Stereo I didn't have any plans of who to ride for and then I met up with Matt Pailes to skate one day and he was like "Dude, come ride for Supernaut"! So, I rode a board and I liked the feel of it and then later I went down to the manufacturer in Pinole, CA. We chatted for a bit, and it was a wrap. Their boards were some of the best in the industry at that time and we made a couple videos. As always man, I had a lot of fun filming for both of them and stacking whatever chips I could. I got great memories for sure form those days. Supernaut was a very unique brand in that time and had a good lil' run, but unfortunately it came to an end. After that shutdown it took a couple years, but I ended up back on Stereo; it all happened at the right time(s).
-You generally have spent most of your career stemming away from contests and things of that nature. Instead, you've focused on the classic street skater mentality of photos matter, demos matter, touring matters, and video parts matter. Why did you decide to go that way and what is your take on the current state of skate media or large scale marketing that overly promotes a contest or quantified skating mentality?
Yeah I definitely wasn't down for the monopoly money side of things coming into the culture; being that it was not for the culture by the culture. Rather, it was just another stream that is primarily youth based marketing. Those big companies are just searching for new wells to tap into to push their garbage. I was and still am always down to go tour and skate/demo live and direct for the people and definitely for the younger skaters to keep it more personal and fun. I'm always down for the grassroots contests like FTC, TampPro/Am, or any other people coming from within the culture and for the culture. The one thing I do actually like about the big monopoly contests is that at least vert skaters have a place to still thrive and be recognized for how gnarly it is and always will be. Other than one aspect I could care less about supporting that stuff in any other way. As far as video parts go I always felt like putting out a video part was like putting out a record and a chance to put out something special that takes time to showcase the personal touch of who you are. Unfortunately, these days the attention span to watch a video-part let alone appreciate the work and time that goes into it is getting lost to the aether's of instantaneous cyberspace that is reprogramming people's attention spans into nothing.
-First person to get a switch front blunt on an actual ledge documented, yay or nay?
I'm not quite sure if I was the first person to film a switch front blunt on a real ledge, but if I was I'll take it to the bank and cash it in for the measly struggle-bucks its worth.
-What has Matt Pailes been up to out in SAC? Do you guys still play music together?
Yup, Matt Pailes and I still roll through SAC hitting the streets trying to motivate our vintage carcasses to move like we always have. As for music; we still jam and we both currently play in two of Sacramento's premier reggae rock-steady bands and we often play shows together (look up the Scratch-Outs and Sacramento Storytellers).
-When is BLK TOP PROJECT (a band featuring Tommy Guerrero, Matt Rodriguez, Chuck Treece, Josh Lippi, and Ray Barbee) coming to the East Coast to do some shows or tour?
Blk Top will be back sharing the good vibes with the East hopefully soon. We for sure will try to get some skating in as well. We went there a few years back and had a blast, so I'm looking forward to coming out there again with the crew.
-You recently went to Japan with BLK TOP; how was that trip? Get any skating in or was it strictly playing shows?
The Blk Top tour to Japan this Summer was amazing as usual. Hanging out with old school rollers, playing music, and keeping the good times rollin' out there. We didn't get much skating in due to traveling a lot from city to city. Hopefully next time we can rip the streets and get some documentation of it. There's an edit of it online somewhere that Josh made.
-How has skateboarding helped or hindered you in other areas of your life? How has it inspired you or how has it potentially frustrated you as well, because we all know skateboarding can be the best of times and the worst of times all rolled into one [question from Pusher pen and ink artist Shawn Beeks of @slapstikskateboardart]?
Skateboarding has helped me have a long enduring creative outlet to express myself in many ways. I can honestly say it has fueled my creative quest in both visual arts and in music; as well as finding an overall sense of self.
-What's up with Es-La-Boom, tell the people...
Es-La-Boom is a spirit and overall outlook of how to approach skateboarding in a sense of "pave your own way, which is always in the eye of the beholder". I want to put out some personal unique and creative things in the near future. Some shirts, softgoods, a few hardgoods, etc. I have a lot of art and a direction that I don't really see any other entities doing that I would like to see. So in the time coming soon I will be putting out a roster of goods with my personal touch and flavor, down to the spirit. It will most definitely be hands on and personal; remember, the small fries are a part of one big batch.
-What's next on your plate for the rest of this year and in 2017?
As for my future, just working steady with Pusher Wheels, Ace Trucks, and Stereo Skateboards. Gonna' be making new music and having adventures with the Sacramento Storytellers and Blk Top Project, and just straight propelling those good vibes Es-La-Boom style.