Mr. Corey Duffel is a skateboarding icon whether he likes it or not. In a world where everyone has the skills on the skateboard, so few lack the personality and style that is required to be what is known as a "professional skateboarder". The reason kids used to tear out pages and put them on the wall was because guys like Corey were bold enough to present themselves in their raw and purest form. No cookie cutter BS because they are the mold from which so many cookies were made. What makes Corey even radder is his infatuation for skateboarding and his appreciation and knowledge of the past and his drive to continue creating his own future however he sees fit. Artform had the pleasure of being able to interview Corey recently. Enjoy the show!
Do you think fashion influences skateboarding or the other way around?
We all like to think we influence fashion, but I don’t know about that. Maybe we are ones that look good in wearing stuff and we make it our own. Skaters borrow inspiration from fashion, music and others all the time. Just because most don’t look in fashion magazines or books doesn’t mean you’re ahead of the curve. Everything has been done before. Everything is recycled. Lines aren’t created over night. A lot of time is put into it and this is months upon months before the public is wearing the stitches. We are very good at making it our own at times, but when I look down at my attire I can say it’s my own and wear it my way, but others also have similar tastes. I have dirty looking white socks with Ollie holes, matching my vintage Donald Duck shirt. I like the contrast of white socks with black trousers. A large military jacket that I customize with spray paint on the back. I peg my straight leg trousers. Not everyone is going to make it their own but some of us don’t want it to look like everyone else. Even the broken glass on my Mickey Mouse watch matters to me. It’s what makes it mine. I fell hard on it and it reminds me of that trick I got. Where I’m going with is I have no clue. At the end of it all there are designers that probably see what some of us wear and take notes of what the streets are rocking.
How does what you wear affect how you skate both mentally and functionally?
I cannot skate if i don’t like the way I look and feel. Pants and shoes matter so much. I feel sick if my clothes don’t feel right. Hair cuts inspire the attire as well. I’m fucking mad when it comes to it.
Back in the days there was definitely a fresh vs hesh vibe to skateboarding. Did that affect you much growing up?
Remember how separated it was. Fuck. It was really wild. Once I started wearing tight jeans my friends shunned me. It changed my life for the better. People are shallow. I Imagine I have parts that never were seen by many of my peers strictly based on the way I dressed or stories they heard.
Who were some of your favorite bands growing up?
The Cranberries, Ramones, The Smiths, The Cure is and always will be my all time favorite. If interested in my music tastes, I post on my music themed Instagram @duffmanjams it’s all stuff outta my vinyl collection.
You came out strong early on with a fashion style that totally went against the grain for the time. Did you get a lot of pushback in the early days of your career on how you dressed?
Skateboarding always says it thrives off individuality but I don’t think that is very true. If you are different and not willing to play by the rules you get pushed aside.
In the late nineties there were not kids skating fast and going down rails in all black and leather jackets. A few years later it still freaked people out that I had pink hair and dangler earrings. Now it’s totally normal and you would be crucified for saying something about ones attire. But that being the norm now, it has inspired me to go against the grain and dress more like I did as a kid in the nineties. Jumbo cords, vertical stripes. Stuff inspired by acid house music and the British. Fashion really matters to me and an outfit can really make a trick stand out. Hate it or love it. Joey Bast in shell toes. It’s recognizable. Jason Lee in the Mickey Mouse shirt. Why be beige when you can be bright!
I remember seeing whole squads of kids that were Corey Duffel look-a-likes mobbing down the streets. Did it ever freak you out that kids were straight up biting your whole style?
It was always very flattering to be honest. We all borrow inspiration from others and it’s a good thing. We live in a world where no one is original but some stand out more. There is a shine about certain individuals and that’s the best. If anyone gathered inspiration from my skating or fashion that makes me smile. To inspire one is such an incredible feeling.
You've always had a gung-ho, take-no-prisoners, balls to the wall approach to skateboarding. What skateboarders did you look up to the most?
Wade Speyer, Barley, Jeremy Klein, Mike Manzoori, Tom Penny, Ethan Fowler, Kareem, Heath, Jamie Thomas. These are dudes I adored. I still watch Gonz, Natas and Jason Lee for inspiration. I started in 94 so seeing eastern exposure changed everything. I wanted to charge.
As a pioneer of going big, do you think skateboarding has peaked in regards to how big and fast someone can physically go?
It will go bigger, and unfortunately it’s not exciting like it was when Heath, Geoff or Jamie was pushing the limits. Frankie Hill or Jeremy Klein ollieing off a mountain will always be more fascinating in my eyes. When Pat Duffy grinded the rails back then it was truly gnarly. Gnarly and bigger are much different. Cardiel vs Jamie Foy. One is incredible and has so much sheer talent and the other had the will to see what was possible with out knowing. When I was younger I worshipped the guys who went fast and didn’t pose it. Look at BA doing the front blunt down hubba. You can't fake that. Those eyes are embedded into our brains forever.
Someone could do something incredible but it’s not the same because we kind of know it’s possible because of them. To call me a pioneer is absurd, I’m just some dude that was standing on the shoulders of giants. I just wanted to do my thing with their inspiration. Make it my own. Have fun and see what was possible without really thinking about it. It’s getting scary to watch. Going fast is the best but this is not SF in the nineties anymore. There’s like 100 thousand more residents, way more transplants that suck at driving, cell phones, Uber, etc. I’m scared to see people bombing now. Pablo and Sean Greene brought it back. Sean Young, Tommy G and others started it, but I rather see fast lines away from the hills for a while. Gino style. Henry Sanchez style. Mike V style. Pushing fast and grinding crust.
Do you think skateboarding should be in the Olympics?
Should one use ranch dressing on pizza? I don’t dig it, but others do. It’s how I feel about it. Contest skating in the nineties was exciting. Tom Penny in 95 and 96.
Contests are now boring in my eyes. There isn’t much individual style. If we have a Neil Blender or Gonz type out there it would be so fucking great, but I’m guessing it’ll be some dudes doing the hardest trick ever and landing like a gymnast. Just because it’s perfect doesn’t make it perfect.
Like I have said. It’s subjective and my opinion is I prefer skating in the streets and not locked in a fence. A Drake Jones noseslide or Ethan Fowler Ollie will get me more excited than seeing whoever wins the gold medal.
What are some bands that should be on our radar?
As I write this sitting at the island airport I’m listen to The Style Council. Paul Weller has been a huge inspiration to me since I was a kid. He taught me to always move forward. My friends in England go by The Blinders. They are bringing back some raw and powerful punk influenced music. They are young and full of energy. We are only young once and you can’t fake it. We can only fake it as we age. When we are young it’s pure and meaningful. Even if we are wrong we believe in ourselves. Older musicians can get something out across, but they can never capture the essence of youth and angst. It’s what I love about punk rock. It’s like skateboarding of the early/mid nineties. A crossfire hurricane of no rules or direction other than straight through. It’s happening in skating again and it’s cool to see. Women are taking over and saying “fuck off” to the culture that’s gotten boring. There are some rad pockets right now, and music is the same. Not a lot but there is some great stuff happening if you open your eyes.
If you could have coffee with one person dead or alive who would it be and what one question would you ask them?
It would be a cup of brew hopefully in Manchester or Paris with Scott Walker and I'd like to ask about his song “Farmer In The City”.
Any new and exciting projects that you've been working on lately? Where can people find and support what you're doing?
If anyone is in the suburbs, they find me working at the record store called Up The Creek. We sell vinyl, skateboards and books. The stuff I love. Otherwise I’m lurking in cyber space and can be found @coreyduffel on Instagram. I use that place for posting older photos and sharing stories. I also like posting from my vinyl collection.
To everyone that goes against the grain and does what they believe in.
Duffman says a lot of things