Many young skaters learning the craft in the early 1990s, like myself, had a ‘crew’ consisting of every skater in every high school in not only my town but all the neighboring towns. For me and the baggy-pantsed brethren this meant there were maybe 8 or so of us, not including the random dabblers and sit-boys. We would take turns purchasing the latest skate video on VHS and then, connecting two VCRs, record personal copies (usually in EP mode so you could fit a whole bunch onto one blank tape).
Some of the crew would make friends with some kids from New Haven or Hartford or New York and the extended network of spot access and skate gossip would steadily grow. As luck would have it, eventually the network included someone who was getting pretty ensconced in the national skate scene as a filmer, thus gaining for himself entry to insider events like video premieres and even invitations to California. From this connection we procured, sometime in the summer of 1996, a bootleg copy of Welcome to Hell.
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.
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.“
Habitat took the successful formula laid down a few years prior with the Metal video, turned up the volume, added some world travel, animated graphics, and footage of stuff being broken and gave us Fred Gall’s 5 minute magnum opus in Inhabitants.
(Ignoring the Classics introduction) The video starts on a quiet afternoon in New Jersey with a broken television and a M80. Black Sabbath introduces us to Freddy in his various elements: in the train yards, trying to skate collapsing piles of debris, breaking fingers, and traipsing through ruined abodes. And with a quick acknowledgement to him being a Sect Original, we’re off.
This part sets a lot of high water marks for Freddy’s career. It has:
The most number of tricks: 68
The most number of lines: 8
The most number of wallrides: 10
The most number of ledge tricks: 25
The most number of flip tricks: 15
We are getting the full arsenal on display here. Alongside all the pretty Barcelona architecture we have plenty of crust, some skatable construction site objects, window wallrides, and a fucking big flip disaster in a pool! Big nollies, shove-its out of bluntslides and into wallrides, and my favorite Fred Gall trick of all time… this thing:
I reached out to Freddy to get the lowdown on the Peace and Unity Go Hand in Hand blunt 180 transfer to grind down on the world greatest street spine and here is what he told me: “That grind was a full accident. But I landed it and was like ‘yo, I just grinded’. Fuck it, we’ll use it anyway.“
One can go on and on about Fred Gall in Inhabitants, but, seriously, just watch it. It’s Freddy’s favorite part of himself. And, most importantly, it makes you want to go out and skate whatever terrain you can find.
While Freddy might not ever again match Inhabitants in term of quantity or diversity of tricks, his video output was far from declining. Coming up, we have at least 14 more parts released over the next 8 years to contemplate, and I’m not even talking about any of those Habitat Field Logs.
Bonus Fred: While watching the Inhabitants DVD, if you hit play while Fred’s name appears at the beginning of his part you get access to this nostalgic edit featuring the best tricks of the Philly years.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Oliver Barton talks about this fabulous Fred photo from 2007 in a 2014 Transworld Photographic Memory feature.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Freddy was on the cover of Skateboarder magazine in 2008. It was hard to find a decent scan of it but I did dig up this picture (of apparently Ecko Unlimited’s copy) off the social medias.
Habitat’s Mosaic video from 2003 is just cram-jammed with memorable sections… Renaud’s opener, the last legitimate efforts from Steve Berra, Dill’s 3 song banger, Poppalardo, Janoski, Garcia, and so on. One could be forgiven for not taking notice of Fred Gall tucked in there towards the beginning.
But isolated from the rest of the video and taken within the context of his entire oeuvre, Mosaic finds Freddy reinvigorated after an unproductive spell and finding his comfort zone. Some soon-to-be regular East Coast spots make their appearance, such as that bench-ledge between the brick banks or that crazy narrow street-quarter piece of architecture. There is plenty of time spent on walls and on curved concrete, plus a smattering of prime Barcelona spots.
Some favorite segments from this part would be the opening flatground backside 360 line, that line that has Freddy looking like Weird Al that features both a fakie heelflip and a switch varial flip down stairs, and that sweet gap kickflip into a tiny banked wall. Honestly, put this part to some heavier music and it would hold its own towards the top of the heap.
Two years later, in 2005, when Asbury Park New Jersey skate company Metal Skateboards released its video Decade of Destruction, Freddy had evolved into the fully actualized skateboarder he was meant to be. He was still pro for Habitat at that time, and Habitat and Metal would occasionally team up, but Freddy had been collaborating with lifelong pal and Metal boss Lou Cuccaro for at least – well – a decade, and this familiarity seems to shine. Surrounded by friends, family, and the roughhewn terrain of the Tri-State area, Fred Gall was presented as the skater he was destined to become. The Dirt is undeniable.
The actual skating isn’t all that different between Mosaic and Metal. Freddy still busts out the switch ledge skills and varial heels. Yet it feels as though he had found his new voice in the cracked pools and shitty banks of his home turf. A voice that would sustain him indefinitely. Habitat was always a very polished brand and Freddy was not designed to be a clean skateboarder, at least not any more. Metal Skateboards understood that. With this new taste for crust, Freddy would no longer just be known for the tricks; He would known for the spots. Another thing he would be known for, occasionally to his own detriment, was his oft-intoxicated carefree attitude. Where Freddy went, the party followed, frequently accompanied by property destruction, arrest warrants, holding cells, and unpaid penalties.
Decade of Destruction, Freddy’s longest part up to this point at 3:40, is golden. It’s got Black Sabbath. It’s got shirtless Freddy skating pools. It’s got Freddy pushing through ditches. It’s got Freddy launching off that street-quarter thing to backside tailslide on a cafe table at night. It’s got backside 360s over gaps made of rubble. It’s got Freddy’s footage from not one but two Slap magazine covers (plus this). Does Freddy do a hippy jump with his long hair flowing while holding and open bottle of beer? Damn right, he does. Metal is still around (quarter-century of destruction?) and produces the Brebick cop shirt. Brebick is the Fred’s childhood doppelgänger who lives in the mirror. There are still some DVDs of Decade of Destruction available.
Bonus Fred: “I had one smith grind ever in my entire life. It was a back smith down the Phoenix Hubba and it was in a Habitat tour section of a video or something.“ It took some doing, but we found it in the “TriSect Tour” section of 411 #58 from 2003.
Bonus Bonus Fred: Habitat’s Regal Road video also came out in 2005 along with the Kalis in Mono Jammie. Freddy’s got some good stuff in there. Rather than embed the whole video here, I’ll just loop the best timed 360flip ever recorded. I’ve got eyewitness confirmation from South Bank that the hooligan in the gray hoodie was knocked out by that step stool just seconds after this clip ends. Typical Fred, grinning and having a good time skating through the dark side.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Listen to Tim O’Connor‘s commentary of Freddy’s Mosaic part. If you find Tim funny, then this is pretty funny. If you don’t find Tim funny, then this is most definitely not funny.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Some more Gall in Ipath’s Summer Preview from 2005. Freddy had finally landed a somewhat steady shoe sponsor at this time in Ipath. They would eventually release some signature shoes for him, but we’ll get into those another time.
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.“
Verso, the Mark Suciu skate video that delivered on all its promises, exists in three movements. In the month since its belated debut so very much has been written and diagramed and decoded in regards to the final portion of the video. You know the section I’m talking about – the part with the sort-of mirrored tricks. The “chiasmus“.
If you took the red pill and followed Mark down the rabbit hole then you now live in a place where we are saying trick names like “Nollie Frontside Heelflip Fakie 5-0 Frontside Revert” and then basking in the sublime symmetry created by the “Nollie Backside Heelflip Nosegrind Backside Revert” that happens 40 seconds later. You are cool with a premature video premiere coming with a prerequisite artist statement. You understand that the last trick, a simple grind, isn’t an ender… it’s a bookender. You comply with demands that one show respect by not mentioning Verso in the comments of his friend’s part’s release announcement less one steal said friend’s thunder. You have embraced a world where the ender is a concept featuring 14 interrelated tricks. You know what chiasmus means.
But perhaps you aren’t the type to delve deep into a skater’s intent. Maybe you don’t view skate videos as something to solve. Conceivably, that Thrasher interview is just too damn long and academic.
Perhaps you took the blue pill and woke up in a world where Mark Suciu, the kid who (along with Dylan) upped the value of the internet-solo-part above that of the part-in-a-team-video with his 2011 Cross Continental masterpiece, has gotten his skate mojo back. You ignore all that encrypted significance and simply enjoy the results of Suciu skating at capacity and with full Adidas funding for the past two years. Is that so bad? Perhaps it is even better.
And thus unfolds the first 2-song course of Verso: a Cross Continental continuation where Mark continues to leave his impression on global skate landmarks past and present – Lloyds, Muni, Kezar Stadium, South Bank, the Bay Blocks. But now Mark is older and wiser. His tricks are even more flawless and quick footed. The reverts are more backbreaking and unexpected. Mark goes big when needed, mixing in some solid double sets and gap-to-rails with all that ledge trickery. His hair is flawless and his pants fit well.
And then we get to the real: Mark Suciu skates New York City. This middle section is what cements Suciu’s legacy onto skateboarding forever even more so than having a namesake grind. Between interstitial cuts of subway doors and manhole cover warm-ups we are treated to one-ups at some of your favorite contemporary NYC sets and ledges in addition to some architectural treats. Mark notches his belt at the expected City chestnuts such as the 360 nollie at the D7 Blocks, the ledge dancing within the Flushings Fountain, the tech devastation of the Pyramid Ledges, and then a triad of Blubba mind benders for dessert. Toss in some stunt tricks worthy of a Thrasher cover, a few cellar door skrells, and hyphenated trick combos from rail to bench or beam to beam and Holy Cow. What a part. Just that New York section alone.
I’ve watched Verso many, many times over the past month and each time the New York section just towers over the mirrored-tricks part, yet this grouping seems already a bit lost in all the academic discussion surrounding the final act. It isn’t a stretch to say the New York Verso is overshadowed by the other parts within the same video. Which is a shame because on its own it is one of the greatest New York parts we have with wide reach. Right up there with Eastern Exposure 3, that part in Transworld’s Greatest Hits, Zoo York Mix Tape, and something else that Quartersnacks would crucify me for not mentioning should they ever read this blog.
Obviously, as I strive keep this ill-conceived Matrix analogy going, I’m more of a blue pill guy.
But maybe this isn’t an either/or situation. Maybe you snatch both pills out of Morpheus’ hands and shove them in your mouth and swallow them both before he or any of the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar can stop you. Maybe the chiasmus doesn’t have to obfuscate the Blubba.
Either way, holy shit, Mark Suciu has some fucking talent riding a skateboard.