And so it was that in the year 2022 we witnessed the return on Frederick J Gall.
Over the 30 years since his skate video debut in 1991, through the streets of Philly, on magazine covers, through destroyed rooms in Spain, in burning buildings in Cambodia, on moving buses in Thailand, and back home in Jersey, Freddy somehow survived. As his cohorts dropped out of skateboarding’s gaze and the signature decks became less frequent and the hours got filled with day job tasks, Freddy just kept pouring concrete and riding.
Then, on July 29th, Spiritual Healing dropped. Fred full-on delivered.
Thrash metal legends Megadeth, condiment staple Kikkoman soy sauce, children’s television powerhouse Mr. Rogers, action movie blockbuster Terminator 2, cult cartoon Rick & Morty… these disparate cultural items come together as a sampling of the official collaborations of Primitive Skateboards. And they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Sailor Moon, Tupac Shakur, Dragon Ball Z, Corona Beer, Marvel Comics, Anna Nicole, Biggie Smalls, Naruto Shippuden, Sri Racha, Transformers… it appears no intellectual property is off limits for P-Rod and Co.
There really isn’t much more to be said about Marisa Dal Santo‘s part in Zero‘s 2009 video, Strange World. Not that I’m discouraged from writing about it, or posting clips of it, or making data visualization charts of it. But, really, there are only so many ways to express “All Time Greatest Part by a Woman”. And while gender is significant to the discussion, it isn’t really a necessary qualifier to watch this part again and again. It is just a damn fun collection of grind-grabs, big drops, dope thrift store outfits, and our favorite no comply flip trick ever. Whether one wants to enjoy it as just a great skate edit, or as the greatest skate edit from a woman is a matter of context. It holds up either way.
Despite the fact that all skate videos are, in a way, specialized music videos, it is still a risky proposition to attempt to make an actual skate music video. The most obvious precedent that comes to mind is Peter Smolik‘s ill-advised music video part featuring The Fedaralz in Shorty’s Guilty video. While not exactly career ending, it certainly is an embarrassing marker for the upcoming rugged descent that continues to scrape the real life pillage of rock bottom. The lesson is clear: Skate to the music, edit to the music, but don’t put the band in your part.
It happens sadly not enough, but every so often, that you will encounter something that, even as it is happening, is glorious and memorable. It might not be a life altering there-was-before-and-there-was-after thing (then again it might), but it is a piece of something that will be with you forever and you understand this even while it is unfolding right before you.
It can be an incredible meal or a day of river swimming or an art exhibition or a film or a skate session or even just a song. But you get just a quarter of the way through and it just know that this could be IT. But will it sustain? Will it deliver on the promise it has set up thus far? The longer it continues the higher the potential for things to go awry but the greater the joy when it doesn’t crack. Each step further can transport us even deeper; Or will the next step be a misstep? But it doesn’t collapse into something merely impressive. The magic preserves and when it is over you know you just participated in, if merely through witnessing, something sublime.
A celebrated legacy can be a real weight for a skateboarding board brand. Sure, it may sell a bunch of logo boards and provide a lot of material to dig into for possible reissues. But it can be a real anchor around the neck of your current riders. Or perhaps more of an invisibility cloak.
No matter how good you skate and how much charisma you exude, people’s memories of the brand are locked into some golden years and golden teams of the rose colored past. You’re likely to be judged that much harder for having the audacity to think your name belongs among the hallowed firmament.
Fred Gall doesn’t really seem to worry about the past too much. He is celebrated because his friends and fans celebrate him, not because he is a self-promoter. Even in the midsts of his present comeback (which feels like a beautifully collaborative happening with his New Jersey crew), Fred seems more interested in shining light on the spots he is skating than himself.
And so, until the next part comes, we end this fantastic voyage of Freddy. I saved the 2013 Thrasher retrospective, Dirts Win, for this final post. It’s a very solid celebration of the career of Fred up to that point and even features a few never-before seen tricks and angles. Plus Brian Wenning chilling on the stoop in sweatpants. I asked Fred who made this video and he told me, “Dude. I think Brennan [Conroy] might have made that cuz I don’t know who else would have.”
Fred Gall and friends (specifically Joe Dorsi) started Domestics as a skate shop at some point in the early years of the 21st century in Carteret, New Jersey. Finding more success with making clothing (and not properly zoned for clothing production at the shop), it eventually moved to a warehouse where it continues churning out screenprinted shirts and hand-sewn jackets, bags, and other soft goods to this day, made right here in the US of A; Including the Fred Gall Signature Lightweight Work Pants. They also make pandemic face masks. In 2013, they released a little Fred Gall promo part. It’s pretty badass.
It’s got some all-time Freddy moments in there like the kickflip backside noseblunt to backside revert, a dump truck into a dump truck, and a heavy gap into bank ollie in front of a dozen mesmerized Cambodians. And I bet you missed that crustition fakie kickflip.
For Fred Gall, 2012 was a year of unrewarded efforts, times of trouble, but also some of the most selfless actions imaginable. It the year Uncle Freddy went from skater we love to folk hero skate legend. It all starts when Fred and NJ Scum, thinking some exotic spots might give Fred a fighting chance to take home some cash in ESPN X-Games Real Street challenge, head to Cambodia.
Freddy delivered a decent part for Real Street, indeed encompassing some colorful spots along with the crusty ditches, crumbling pools, and highway underpass wallride lines we have come to rely on him for. It even has that excellent roll-in at Ogden Bank to Ledge in NYC where Fred is rocking the cornrows.
The crazy soup that is Uncle Freddy‘s skate footage got real thick as the new decade arrived in 2010 and 2011. Fred dropped no less than four parts in the span of about 16 months in that frame, so one can be excused for getting them mixed up. It can all become a blur of sweat and crust. If you can keep your head together through it all, some of these tricks rank up there up as Fred’s most stylish.
In the first week of 2011, Lowcard Magazine did an online vote to declare the Worst Skater of the Year for 2010 and our boy Freddy took the crown (Dan Drehobl was runner up). As far as we know, another WSOTY has never been proclaimed.
The WSOTY video by NJ Scum has some great tricks amongst the dry heaves and snot rockets. Fred frontside wallrides a chainlink fence, bluntslides a handrail, and gaps into backside lipslides. Of the 15 clips of ‘Fred-Smashing-Stuff’ in his career (and this includes him blowing things up with explosives), the switch beer bottle jam ollie to bottle stomp is king. Overall, Lowcard’s video is some grade-A Gall.
It is also worth noting that this WSOTY video is a single skater internet part that was released less than two months after P-Rod’s Me Myself and I part. So, yeah, Freddy also was one of the innovators of the modern internet part and how we presently consume modern skate media content.
A few months before this Freddy had a similar part in Habitat’s Origin DVD. I say similar because the intersection of Origin to WSOTY is near total. Not including ‘lifestyle’ clips of dumptrucks-into-the-river or machete Freddy, there are only 3 tricks in Origin that we haven’t already seen in Lowcard’s vid above.
Habitat did, however, do a little 20-year anniversary celebrating with Freddy in 2011 by posting all of his ads with AWS and Habitat up until that point online (since taken down) and a commemorative Hell on Earth deck. They damn well better do something big for his the 30th anniversary in 2021.
I guess technically Origin was both earlier than WSOTY and confined to a physical disc rather than the net, so the overlap is understandable. I guess these two videos, featuring nearly the same footage, are a solid marker of Freddy starting to fall solidly into his own aesthetic rather than Castrucci’s vision. Origin is still worth a view if only for the frontside 50-50 on a kinked rail at 0:42.
Unfortunately for Fred (and for hippie skaters everywhere), his shoe sponsor, Ipath was sold by then-owners Timberland (who by all accounts seemed to be decent bosses) right around this time, and the shoe brand’s decline towards dissolution began. With a team video by Thad Croskey almost finished, the new majority stakeholders had just cut most the team and weren’t interested in releasing a video to promote the brand. While Freddy made the cut and continued to be sponsored and even had signature shoes on Ipath for another couple of years, by all standards it was a slowly sinking ship. The skate trips to exotic lands were over. Thad jumped ship in solidarity with all the cut riders and they pooled resources to bring the world The Other Ones as a ‘vigilante style’ independent release in 2011. If you ever wanted to watch Fred Gall skate to country music, here you go:
Clocking in at 4 minutes long, this is Freddy’s second-longest (non-retrospective) part, although some of the footage gets reused here from previous parts or again in later parts (yes, we see that ledge ride to handrail fs lipslide in at least 3 different videos). It’s got plenty of interesting spots, both of the crusty curved and street variety. In fact, nearly 25% of the tricks in this part are ledge tricks. Not bad and not what exactly one would expect of Fred during this time.
Some of the highlights include a tasty slow-motion frontside flip on a giant brick cone, a backside kickflip to tail to revert on a cobblestone street volcano, the retro line featuring a nollie backside flip and switch crooks to regular, and Fred shouting “I made it alive!” after surviving a monumental ollie into a ditch. You can see a 60p version of The Other Ones here. Freddy’s part starts around 21:00.
Rounding out the year 2011 is a dual shared shop part with Steve Durante for Orchard and/or Seasons skate shop. Apparently they put out a collaborative wheel and have open relationships with their riders. Again, some deja vu footage from NJ Scum since everyone wanted in on that sweet Jersey VX1000 action. This cut also has some gems like a straight up rooftop gap kickflip, a rarified nose manual trick, and Freddy skating a pool wearing a gas-powered leaf blower. If you ever wanted to watch Fred Gall skating to the Misfits, here you go:
Bonus Fred: Lowcard made a handful of episodes of Fred Gall Show around the time they crowned him Worst Skater of the Year. It’s basically just a buzzed Uncle Freddy with a swollen face yelling into a beer can microphone while he ‘interviews’ the likes of Bobby Worrest, Pat Duffy, the Daggers, John Falahee from New School, Jeff Pang, Steve Rodriguez, and other randos.
Bonus Bonus Fred: Our hero gives Ryan Sheckler a run for his money in a high-stakes game of skate in 2011.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Story time with Uncle Freddy for some Brazilian website called Rettaskate, or something, I don’t know there is a lot of random stuff out there with Fred and it can be hard to figure out who did what and why. I find this one funny, though.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Freddy and Pat Duffy sort of talk about Recs and Primus and other things in this video from sponsorme.com (what the fuck were all these websites?). Worth a watch just just to hear Fred deliver the quote: “What, do I gotta buy some shit to skate your spot? I’ll do it.“