To be fair, if we are indeed going to account for All the Gall, we should consider the bright but brief blowtorch of a career from Alex ‘Trainwreck’ Gall (no relation to Fred). It won’t take long, for his legacy was built on the weight of just 2 full parts. With such a strong impact made so quickly, only to disappear so completely, Trainwreck’s career path has become the archetype of the explode then vanish what-ever-happened-to skater.
As awesome of a nickname as he posses, Alex Gall didn’t earn it from his aggressive skateboarding or monumental slams. He got literally hit by a train as a child. His skating wasn’t on any radars at all as he grew up and he emerged fully formed as a ball of destruction in his Jamie Thomas produced Wheels of Fortune part in 411 #39 from 2000. He went pro for Zero not too long after, but quit the team while on a trip to New York, thusly never having that Zero part you swore he did.
Before we contemplate the birth of Habitat, Mr. Dibbs, and how it feels to skate New York City with one pant leg rolled up, let’s catch up with historic Fred Gall to see what he has been up to since our last episode. First, we contemplate Fred’s 7 clips from Transworld‘s 1997 video, Interface. While this video was released the same year as Alien Workshop‘s Timecode video, it is a much more contemporary look at the style Freddy would be rocking for the late 90s. Although just 10 tricks, it features a few weighty moves like the varial heelflip over the Brooklyn Banks wall and the ultra tech switch shove nosegrind to fakie shove out.
The dust had barely settled on the grey VHS tape that is Timecode before things started to shift. Lennie Kirk quickly slipped through the looking glass of militant Christianity and off the pro skating landscape and, significantly, Jason Dill and AVE joined the Sect. Most importantly to Freddy’s career, Alien hired a new video and team guy name Joe Castrucci, and the first order of business was to make a 411 Industry Section. By the time 1998 was in full swing, Freddy had more or less detached himself from the Philadelphia scene and, when not touring with the Alien team, concentrated his attack on the New York / New Jersey area. His hair was long and tied up, his pants were baggy and cargoed, and for some reason all his footage was in black and white in that segment.
Freddy and the AWS team immediately started filming for their next full length video following the 411 section. But by the time Y2K rolled around, a new team had formed around Castrucci’s vintage tourism aesthetic, a trio of East Coast professionals, a couple of future stars in Danny Garcia and Mark Appleyard, and the heir to the dirty Jersey ledge crown… young Brian Wenning. Also Rob Pluhowski. Fred Gall was the human link from the old Workshop to this new team.
But before we get into all that, once again peep Freddy’s 3 New York tricks in Zoo York’s Peep This video from 1999 (as seen in our All the Gall intro post).
Habitat was introduced with its own cohesive 12-minute segment in the middle of Alien Workshop’s monumental Photosynthesis in the year 2000 (runner-up for the unofficial greatest skate video of all time competition); And Freddy’s got a solid minute and a half in there. His part displays a skater within a transformation, perhaps not yet quite finding his lane entirely. Timecode-era teenage Fred was gone and the Mayor of Dirts had yet to arrive.
The stock Gall tricks are all kicked up a notch: The switch 180s to 5-0 grinds are on a handrail in a line. The backside 5-0 to backside 180 out is taken to Los Angeles’ famous J-Kwon gap to ledge. A full 2/3rds of his tricks are switch. We see one of the first filmed wallrides of Fred’s career and it’s a doozy – kickflip to backside at the Brooklyn Banks – good enough to get Fred his only Transworld cover. We even get a pair or rare glimpses at Fred’s badass nollie hardflip [see the triple-bonus note below]. The level of competition from the rest of the team is intense, but Fred holds his own. And unlike his parts in Timecode and 411 #30, the Photosynthesis footage felt cohesive within itself and the rest of the video. The days of just gathering whatever clips could be found from friends was over… for now.
On the clothing side of things we witness some of his more memorable/forgettable kits: Cinched up baggie pants and lots of yellow t-shirts. Fred seems to be dabbling into fresh territory and it just doesn’t suit him, in my opinion. It does make footage of this era distinct and easy to spot when later sliced into retrospectives and such; It is definitely ‘of the era’.
Fred has admitted to not stepping up and pushing his potential during the years immediately before and after Photosynthesis. Those were times when big money was to be made in the skate industry and a few short-sighted decisions for quick cash in the shoe game along with a generally laid back attitude towards his career kept him from those true superstar paychecks. Fred Gall, of course, is not big on regret. And while he might not have won the Y2K shoe sponsor sweepstakes, how many professionals can claim a single board sponsor for 30 years?
Bonus Fred: If you ever wanted to bask in the warming glow that is new millennium Fred Gall fucking up the Venice pit ledges switch stance with his cargo pants cinched up, today is your lucky day cause that is precisely what happens in Danny Minnick’s 2001 Collage video.
Bonus Bonus Fred: Digging deep into Quartersnacks using the command-F function unearthed this Jim Hodgson footage from a 1998 Vans Triple Crown contest from Asbury Park, New Jersey. The video starts with 20-year-old Freddy dropping in off the top turnbuckle and the entire run is excellent. Fat stalefish airs, steep varial heelflips to fakie, and a nollie hardflip on the flat bank. Further research shows Willy Santos won the contest (of course) and Freddy didn’t even place in the top ten.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: I asked the man if he still has nollie hardflips, a trick we shan’t see again after Photosynthesis. He told me, “Thats another one that I can still do. I don’t know. I haven’t done that one in a while but I know I can do it.“
And then, in 1994, it all came together. Rather than simply crossing Newark Bay into New York City to skate, young Fred Gall started heading down into the city of Philadelphia. There, amongst the abundant stairs and ledges of such storied spots as City Hall, Muni, and Love Park, he thrived. Surrounded and elevated by a close cast of friends built around the Sub Zero skate shop that included Sergei Trudnowski, Matt Reason, Jerry Fisher, Eric Ruwadi, and mayor Ricky Oyola, Fred put himself in the vanguard with his switch-stance ledge skills, inebriated proficiencies, and slouching style. Amongst the constant training that was aggressively skating from spot to spot and an adherence to the unwritten code including pushing with your back foot when skating switch, Fred emerged as the skater to watch.
Fortunately for those wanting to watch, this entire scene was diligently documented by lensman Dan Wolfe and released throughout the year by way of several VHS videos. Let’s check them out. Please note that a lot of the footage from these three videos has been sliced and reedited into both the Eastern Exposure Zero video as well as Fred’s easter egg part hidden within the Inhabitants DVD.
First up we have Freddy’s Rookies section from 411 video magazine issue # 8. To announce his ascent into the pro rankings for Alien Workshop, Fred gives a sampling of what he at the time would be known for: Lots of switch and nollie ledge tricks around Philly, with an occasional handrail thrown in there. The part, like the Digable Planets song it is set to, is meandering and leisurely with a lot of casual lines. Not a bad thing, especially when you have an appreciation for the rarity of quality non-mongo switch pushes happening at the time. This part exudes “East Coast”ness with its spots and its pacing, which is significant considering how California-centric the whole skateboarding industry was at the time. The highlight of the part would be the City Hall line that features a nollie noseslide down a hubba, a 180 into a switch nosegrind on one of those amazing granite benches, and then a pedestrian buzzing switch 360 flip. This part also has Freddy giggling during his brief interview overdub and Jerry Fisher snuggling in bed with a cat, which is adorable. Not a legendary part, but a great overview of his talents and probably the most seen part released that year as the others were in much more regional (although now much more celebrated) videos.
Next up we take a look at Fred’s footage from Wolfe’s fabled Eastern Exposure 2 video. While the video is a smorgasbord of spots and skaters and Fred does have a trick here or there in other parts, the bulk of his tricks are grouped together between Serge and Reason in the Philadelphia section. Clocking at just a little over a minute, the footage, with only one exception, was filmed entirely at Philly’s Love Park and City Hall and scored by a frantic John Coltrane saxophone solo. With just a handful of sessions documented Fred again manhandles the area. The complete ambidextrous nature of the skating with fluidity and grace from both stances was novel for the time. We also get treated to some stair skating with Fred’s always solid but underutilized heelflip and a monster straight nollie.
My favorite clip of Eastern Exposure 2 is Fred’s opening line on the upper plaza at Love: backside flip, switch 5-0 180 out, the hairpin turn pushes, nollie nose slide, and then the only fakie 360 flip the Fred ever committed to video. That sequence with the front foot shuffle after landing the bs flip, two switch pushes, badass ledge trick and then Fred tucking his hair behind his ear while cutting the tight turn and heading back towards the camera has all the subtleties that make this just so emblematic of Fred Gall at this time. This is how every young skater on the East Coast, including me, wanted to skate.
I thought I had every scrap of Fred’s skating memorized from this time period, but, for the life of me I could not locate a single instance of a switch 50-50 grind. No photos neither. This seemed odd, as a switch 50 on a handrail in City Hall was famous enough to get mentioned specifically in Fred Gall’s amazing Chrome Ball interview. When I had the opportunity to speak to Freddy about the missing trick, he immediate pointed me in the right direction: “Its in Thrasher: On The Road. You will find that there. I have kinda a little part in there.“
And so he does, and there it is, along with some other Philly bits you might enjoy.
The pinnacle of Fred Gall’s amazing year was the final part of the Sub Zero shop video Real Life. While the other part of 1994 may have sampled the goods, this is the footage feast. Set to the unlikely soundtrack of the flute-filled summertime Canned Heat jam Going Up the Country, Real Life has Freddy savoring all that Philly splendor. Sticky handrails, those amazing Afro Banks lip tricks, a pair of street gaps, and well curated lines at all the notable plazas in the City of Brotherly Love.
This part features two incredibly pleasing heelflips: the quick footed up the bench to over the trashcan at Muni that would get homaged 19 years later by Habitat teammate Mark Suciu, and the mammoth Pulaski planter gap to end the part.
Memorably, Real Life gives us some bonus credits scenes of an intoxicated Fred and Ricky clowning around the late night streets of Philly after, apparently, about 8 beers. Just to be clear here, that’s a drunk 15 year old Fred Gall nollie frontside 180 to switch 5-0 grind a ledge in the dark, and it is amazing.
After 1994, Fred would slip off the video radar for a bit, traveling here and there with Alien Workshop, dropping out of school, dropping acid, shooting photos in SF for Slap magazine, and enjoying the life of a pro skater while not generally worrying about capturing every session on camera.
Bonus Fred: A pair sweet tricks including one of my favorites, the bs 180 to switch bs 5-0 on that SF ledge-rail, from the Chaos section of 411 #9.
Bonus Bonus Fred: Fred also had a Fine Tuning segment in 411 #9. While the literally phoned-in trick tip is worthless (as they always were back then), the footage of the straight-on backside noseblunt slide at Love is priceless.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Fred also had a trick tip in 411 #7 from early 94. It’s at 35:30… Whoops – looks like music copyrights got this thing taken down from Youtube. You can watch 411 #7 on the Transworld site for the moment.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Youtube user Skate Video Vault uploaded Sub Zero Real Life in its entirety, but somehow Fred’s part has the skate noise but no music. While I happen to love the Canned Heat track, it is interesting to see this part without music:
Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Fred did a lot in 1994, so much so that some of the bonus bits will be grouped with the next episode. Or, as is the case here, I’l just keep updating this page with more bonuses. With that in mind, Fred won the Love Park contest in the “Sponsored” division (he wasn’t pro yet at the time) in the winter of 93/94. He talks about selling weed at this contest in his Bobshirt interview (around 5:00), and you can find the 411 #6contest footage here (around 23:50).
Most would consider Andrew Reynolds performance in Birdhouse’s The End (1998) to be his graduation from Willy’s friend into an elite realm of professional skateboarding. This metamorphosis was presented rather completely the following year in the Baker Bootleg video, condensing Andrews growth from fuzzy headed Florida grom into the proto-ringmaster of the band of degenerates who would soon take over skateboarding. Baker Bootleg’s Hi-8 B-Roll of all the motion picture filmed Birdhouse stunts seemed to make those monumental tricks all the more real… the Boss had arrived.
But those of us paying close attention during this era had already witnessed Andrew’s undeniable proclamation of manhood. Tucked neatly away twenty minutes into a Best of 411 volume from 1997 lies nearly three minutes of golden Reynold footage. No music, no embarrassing spoken intro, no filler, no drunken orangutans, just Boss trick after Boss trick.
Even to this day, it is very rare to come across a skate part without music. Outside of Tim Dowling’s Listen video, I can hardly think of any (coincidentally enough, Andrew Reynolds in Bake & Destroy comes to mind). Without a driving rhythm or narrative of a song, the tricks and lines attack relentlessly. Heavy trick after heavy trick bludgeon the viewer providing only the slightest breathing room with a stylish line or a broken board.
It’s understandable that this part would be forgotten quickly, even in an era of repeated rewatchings of every skate video released. 411s, while popular, tended to only be on topic until the next issue came out. Except for the slow motion intro tricks (and even then), a 411 part rarely got the shine of a board company release. The “Best of” even less so.
The potential impact of Andrew Reynolds’ Profile in Best of 411 Vol. 4 can be revisited by watching the entire video, or even browsing a few different parts. In a video full of present and future legends (Marc Johnson, Daewon, Rodney, Jerry Hsu, etc.), Reynolds’ part is truly unique, memorable, and only dated by the low quality of the magnetic video tape. Future business partner and pre-identity crisis Jim Greco also has an incredible part in this tape that predates his Misled Youth reveal, but see how the song and overall “411-ness” of the whole thing lower what should have been Greco’s big debut into just another 411 Wheels of Fortune for the pile.
Why more skaters and skate video makers don’t choose to make an edit here and there without music is beyond me.