An Interview With Solo Skate Mag
Solo is a skate magazine from Germany that we really enjoy. An expertly designed publication with great photos, it's really a shame that we can't read German (although it's cool that each issue comes with an English translation.) Daryl Mersom talked to its founders Stefan Schwinghammer, Oliver Klobes, Carsten Bauer and Oliver Tielsch to find out everything we've been missing by just looking at the pictures.
Where does the name Solo come from?
Skateboarding is also something you can do alone, you can do it solo. So it kind of fit. And it sounds good as well, you can understand it internationally, it’s not a strictly German word. We didn’t want to limit ourselves from the beginning. We are a German based magazine with a special view on the German scene – but from the beginning we wanted to represent a wider range of skateboarding, not just Germany, but also Europe and international skateboarding.
We worked on Monster for so many years for a publisher, we wanted to be doing a mag by ourselves, being responsible for everything, being 'solo'. That’s where the name came from.
And all of us like Han Solo.
Explain for those who don't know the significance of Monster in Germany.
Monster was running since 1982, nearly 33 years, it was the second oldest, still running skate magazine after Thrasher. It changed publishers a couple times and became a part of Factory Media, who owned like 19 magazines and somehow decided, ‘Oh, the print business is declining’ or whatever, or ‘We’re not interested.’
And then they decided to stop doing the whole print mags and they shut down 19 magazines, also Kingpin, and Sidewalk, which went online. They tried to do Monster just online, it went on for a bit, done by a finger boarder. But recently, two months ago, they shut it down completely. So there wasn’t even a homepage anymore, and the funny thing is yesterday I saw that they posted one thing again after two months and it was an ad for an electric longboard, which is pure wackness.
We are really happy with what Solo has become. It’s a bit more spicy than what Monster became in the end.
Are you the only German language skate magazine?
There is Place but it’s not German speaking anymore, they are in English now. Besides that there are smaller magazines, more zine like, such as Irregular from Munich. There’s also Parallel but they don’t come out on a regular basis and they are really small and more local. In Hamburg there is Achterdeck, which is a small zine and then there is Humbug in the East, another small zine. There is no Limited anymore, no Playboard – they are gone. So I think we are the only proper German speaking skateboard magazine.
What do you think of Place?
We like it. They’re doing some other stuff. For them they say you can watch the hardest skateboarding on the internet, so we don’t need to do that in the mag anymore, they are focusing on other things, cultural things. We really like that.
We are friendly with them, I was at the Copenhagen Open and I shared an AirBnB with Paul Röhrs, one of their editors. Daniel Pannemann the editor in chief has already had a cover on Solo and he is working on his interview right now for Solo, which will be out in the next issue. So we like what they do and we like the guys, it’s all good.
Tell me about the various questionnaires you have, such as the Proust one.
We have some questionnaires for our website, like short little questionnaires that we can use when we are at events or there is a pro coming to our town and we don’t have time to prepare something.
It’s like a little snippet, it’s funny, it’s interesting for us, it’s out of the box, sometimes it’s a bit cheesy but we are doing them for fun. It’s not a big thing, just an online gimmick.
I don’t want to say that the website is not as in-depth, but we don’t think so much about the website as much as we do for the stuff in the magazine. When we do stuff for the magazine it’s more selected. On the website we are posting little things as well as snippets, bits and pieces on a daily basis.
When we do stuff for the magazine we are very selective because we obviously can’t put everything in. So it’s only the stuff that we are really into. We always wanted to make it as good as possible and not just feature good skateboarding but also feature people that we like and who have something interesting to say. Even if people don’t read that much anymore, it’s important to us that it’s not just a picture book, that there are also interviews and articles that give you an insight into skateboarding and give you some information, something more in-depth. So you don’t just flip through the pages and five minutes later you put it away and it’s gone, you can read it for maybe two hours and waste your time in a good way, enjoy it for a long time, that is what we want for the magazine. Not just what you have on Instagram and the web, ‘I like it, I like it,’ and it’s gone.
Is there a good market for print in Germany?
We don’t actually know, we hope so. It wasn’t a business decision to start this. It was not like ‘we can get a lot of money out of this’. We were like OK, they killed Monster, but we want to do a skateboard magazine, let’s do it. I think we would do it even if there was no market, by working a normal job and doing a skateboard magazine on the side. Because we are into print and we like doing this. That’s why we never really thought about whether or not there was a market.
But obviously there is a market and we can live out of it. I think Germany is the biggest skateboarding market in Europe, there are enough advertisers here. And I think there are a lot of people still interested in print here. We get a lot of responses from the shops that people are coming and asking for the new Solo, only going to the shop to grab the magazine, which benefits the shops as well. Even the skaters, they want to get the covers and get in the mag. They are bummed if they are not in the mag and we say we can only feature it online. Print is still wanted, but there are less and less people willing to pay for it. There are guys like us who go to shops and buy magazines for 15 or 20 euros because we are in love with print, but that is a small group. For special interest it only really works if you do it for free and live out of advertising.
What was the idea between the split screen cover of the recent issue (see above)?
We want to appreciate that. That’s what we want to do with covers. We don’t want to give a cover to just anybody, or because it’s a nice photo – we want to appreciate the work of the skater, and if the skater has a proper interview and he went all in for it, gave his blood for it, then it fits better for the cover. But we didn’t have the right picture to fit the cover because it’s landscape format so we couldn’t really put it full on the cover, so we needed something. We copied the grass in there and it worked. We thought it’s a bit spicy. Maybe we will look at it in like 5 months and think ‘who had this fucking ridiculous idea’ but maybe we will still like it in ten years or something like that. That’s what we can do with Solo, we can try stuff. Maybe with Monster we wouldn’t have done it. With Solo we are able to play around and do new stuff, that’s what we did with this cover and in the end we were pretty happy with how it turned out.
The t-shirts and hats you make a really cool, who designs them?
His name is Piotr Zapasnik and he was an intern for Monster and then he did some freelance stuff for us and he now works in an agency in Berlin. When we started with Solo we wanted to do some shirts and a cap, and everyone offered their ideas and what he did was really fucking awesome. That’s why we stick with his work. We really like them and we are planning something new. He’s a really good and creative guy.
If Solo could change one think about skateboarding in 2016, what would it be?
Bring back Heath Kirchart.