Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Sound of Place 2 - Interview with Tommy Guerrero for Rifflandia Music Festival Magazine

Rifflandia 3 is just around the corner so be sure to grab your copy of the festival magazine at habit coffee and pretty much any other spot in downtown Victoria. This years line up looks awesome and the magazine looks even better, so figure it out.

Be sure to get to page 48 for my write up and interview with Tommy Guerrero.

For those of you not privy to get the magazine, please see below for my article...extended version.

Interview with Tommy Guerrero for Rifflandia 3 Festival Magazine by Christian Barnard

Tommy Guerrero spent most of the 1980s turning San Francisco into his own personal skatepark. Rolling with the legendary Bones Brigade, he bombed the city’s steep hills, introducing a surfing-style of skateboarding to the existing urban dance of the day. His style flowed like no other skater around and by 1985 Guerrero had signed a contract with one of America’s first skateboarding companies, Powell Peralta, cementing him in history as the world’s first professional street skateboarder.

Flash forward 25 years and you’ll find Tommy Guerrero is a 44-year-young office dude who spends the majority of his time as the art “misdirector” and a “computer monkey” (his words) at Krooked Skateboards in San Francisco. But don’t think for a moment that the dream is dead. What most people didn’t realize during Guerrero’s busy young life traveling the globe signing autographs and teaching actors like Christian Slater how to make it look real for the movies, is that music was as much a passion for him as was four-wheeled fanaticism.

With album titles like Soul Food Taqueria and From The Soil To The Soul, and tunes like “Terra Unfirma” and “Architec,” Guerrero's cerebral, atmospheric music perfectly captures the soul of San Francisco's urban communities. During rare breaks from work and happy domesticity he crafts sounds reminiscent of the playground of his youth: rap beats pumping out of passing cars, street performers jamming, the clamor of passing multilingual conversations; all of it merging into a cinematic soundtrack of the city itself.
But, Guerrero prefers to let people interpret his music in their own manner. Nonetheless, after a certain amount of me being a pain is his ass, he finally agreed to an interview…

CB: Offer us some insight into your musical background; where and how did it all start?

TG: It came from skating and listening to punk, seeing Sex Pistols on the tube when they played in San Fran. Also when the Ramones played a free show in front of city hall in ‘77 or ‘78... blew my mind. Me, my brother and friends started a punk band called Jerry's Kid’s...(not the later band that people knew of). I was the singer… then I started playing guitar but switched shortly after to bass. Then we formed a new group called Revenge. After that we became Free Beer...that was our last punk band. Last show was in ’84 with Angry Samoans, Suicidal Tendencies and someone else…

I was into metal and wanted to play like Getty Lee!! I Love rush! But it all comes from my father’s side of the family. We didn't grow up with any of ‘em but he and his three brothers were all musicians in San Fran. His parents were as well. My grandfather was a jazz git player and violinist and grandmother was a singer. I have some amazing photos of them from the 40s and 50s, but never knew ‘em. So me and my brother inherited it from them...genetics are hard to escape.

CB: How big of a role has the cultural landscape of San Francisco played in your life and career?

TG: In every way I would imagine. With skating it’s the hills...learning to adapt in such a unique environ nurtured a specific style/way of skating: fast. There's so much rich artistic soil in San Fran that some sort of osmosis trip happened and here I am. I don't consider what I do a "career.” I never wanted to burden myself with that load.

CB: If you were to describe the city of SF in sensory terms what does it smell, feel and taste like to you?

TG: Like a pot of stew with all the leftovers thrown in. Soup for the soul...with a bit of a bite.

CB: Being that you were involved in the music scene alongside your skating career, how has the culture of skateboarding informed your music? How have they informed each other?

TG: For me they are one in the same...an escape from the daily grind and bullshit the world hurls at you. They have taught me to count on myself and DIY everything.

CB: What turns you on creatively?

TG: Can be anything. Sounds and life of the city are a good catalyst, so much energy.
People are a great source of inspiration, from any/every walk of life... [I’m] always humbled by those helping others.

CB: Give us an idea on how your sound is evolving and where you see it heading?

TG: More percussive, sonically more interesting...and more about the journey than the destination.

CB: What are you working on now? Any new projects we should know about?

TG: I have an album coming out in October titled "Lifeboats and Follies." It came out in Japan last year. This is a different version though. I finished a "live" album for my Japanese label; it'll be out in September I think. I will be doing a small tour in September there. I have a small line with Levi’s Japan and a shoe coming out on Vans/Syndicate the 1st of next year...all pretty cool stuff.

CB: What can Victoria expect to see and hear from Tommy Guerrero?

TG: Good question!! If nothing else, honesty.

TG: Many thnx!!!


  1. Great article with an amazing artist. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Wow... I have fun reading the article. This is nice and informative post. Thanks for sharing your ideas and experience. Keep it up.