The Rules of Skateboarding #7: Josh Stewart

Illustration by  Christian Kerr

Illustration by Christian Kerr

In this month's Rules of Skateboarding Ian Browning talks to the brains behind the legendary Static video series, Josh Stewart, about the rules of music supervision in skate videos. All is explained below:

What are videos that you would consider to be classics? Specifically, videos that have stood the test of time because of they way they’re edited or the music they’ve used. What has held up?

I mean, the most obvious example is Video Days. Also the Stereo video A Visual Sound. I guess it’s maybe a little too stylized because that kind of music is going to annoy people at a certain point. But that one, to me, really stands the test of time.

It sucks because hip-hop heavy videos, especially in the 90's were so common. You know, like 20 Shot Sequence. Hip-hop will stand the test of time if it’s used in moderation, but it really dates things. I think Photosynthesis definitely is a really good example of using great music while still being safe in the sense that it’s going to last.


Ed Selego + Yellowman may seem weird in theory, but man was it sick in practice. Nollie from Adio's  One Step Beyond .

Ed Selego + Yellowman may seem weird in theory, but man was it sick in practice. Nollie from Adio's One Step Beyond.

What do you like more: when the skater picks the music or when the editor picks the music? Why?

It always depends. In my experience, very often when the skater picks the music, he’s not seeing it. It’s like a chapter in a book. So if a skater is just picking something and is like 'I love this song and I have to skate to this song', it doesn’t flow. It’s like it’s own story that should be separate. Very often when a skater is really adamant, I’m terrified because it’s going to change that feeling that I'm trying to achieve.

But some of my favorite songs that have been in my projects were picked by the skater. It often brings something that I would have never heard before. That out of the box thing, like Ed Selego skating to Yellowman. He told me he wanted to use a reggae song in the Adio video and it’s like '...I don’t think that’s going to work'. Then the second you put it to the footage and you’re like 'Oh shit!'. Sometimes you don’t even think it’s going to work, you put it in a timeline and it's clear that the skater’s seeing something you’re not seeing.

I typically think that if it’s a video maker like Joe Castrucci who creates an overall experience, it typically works best when the filmmaker or editor is making those choices. But the left field suggestions from skaters sometimes are the best.


Paul Shier's  Static ll  song might have been suspect, but there is nothing suspect about this backside flip.

Paul Shier's Static ll song might have been suspect, but there is nothing suspect about this backside flip.

Looking back are there any music choices you regret in your videos?

Oh yeah, there are [laughing.] Absolutely.

Anything in particular?

I think almost every video has one of those. In Static I, it’s a band called Mr. Bungle. It’s the guy Mike Patton from Faith No More, it was his side project. It’s like a montage—nobody will remember it because everyone skips it, I’m sure—it opens up with (Mark) Appleyard 360 flipping a double set on Super 8. That one was a bad choice. In Static II, Paul Shier’s song by The Faint. I think he said he likes it still, but it dates it. It’s like every emo kid sitting in his room feeling sorry for himself in 2004. Wayne Patrick’s song in Static II. I like Modest Mouse, and I’m not embarrassed that I used a Modest Mouse song, but it’s grating when I hear it.

You know, using The Shins in a Static video in hindsight, that makes no sense. The idea is to use stuff that’s obscure that people have never heard before. I feel like Static II was one of those videos where, I’m not saying I learned my lesson, but after the fact I was really careful with music from there on out.

What about reusing a song that someone else has skated to? What circumstances is that allowed? Are there any?

It’s kind of on your conscience, you know what I mean? Did you really not know that that song had already been used? Usually it’s an absolute no, because you’re hurting yourself.

In Static IV I almost used a song Reynolds skated to. I didn’t even see it! It’s one of the ones, Baker 2G or something. One of the ones that slipped past me. He skates to Donovan. I had it edited and I was so hyped on how it went. I don’t show it to anybody and somehow Pat Steiner was in the office and heard it and was like 'You’re not editing to that, are you?' I was like, 'Yeah, why?' And he was just like the emoji with the hand in the face.

I don’t know if there’s a rule I live by with that. You almost always just can’t use it.


'Has anyone skated to the vocal track from  I Heard It Through The Grapevine ?' Steve Brandi, Gap to 5-0.  Static IV.

'Has anyone skated to the vocal track from I Heard It Through The Grapevine?' Steve Brandi, Gap to 5-0. Static IV.

But what if it was in Logic 3? Is that still the rule?

If it’s something that was in one of those video magazine formats, that does not affect the decision making at all. Especially now with all these Instagram edits and part releases. It’s so hard to keep track of it. It’s the same thing with tricks on spots. If it was a classic trick or a classic skater, you know if Guy Mariano did a trick on a spot, you can’t redo it. But these edits where every week there’s a new six minute edit of kids just ransacking New York City? It’s like dude, I can’t keep up. At a certain point the rules have changed. It’s more on your conscience.

There’s a song in FTC Penal Code, they use a Love song for Max Schaff’s song and his part is literally like 12 seconds long. It’s such a bummer because I always have a list and that song is on my list and it’s like 'Oh man, you could still use this because they didn’t really', and that’s one of my favorite videos ever so I never used it. That’s the other thing, if somebody does a song dirty you’re kind of like 'Well…'


This alley-oop fakie 5-0 is about 1/5 of Max Schaff's  Penal Code  part.

This alley-oop fakie 5-0 is about 1/5 of Max Schaff's Penal Code part.

What about editing and effects? Are they subject to similar rules in terms of expiration date or are we going to be watching fake VHS footage for the rest of our lives?

It’s weird because, as far as general editing rules for me, and I’m not saying I’ve always followed this, but if something is a blatant trend and you’re recognizing that, don’t do it. Do something different. I have done plenty of things and I’m like 'I’ve been influenced by this'. After the fact I’m like 'Oh, I just did it because I thought that’s how you’re supposed to do it'.

The thing about the VHS trend, It’s rampant to this day but there’s people who do it in a way where I still enjoy it. To be skating through the city—and this happened recently—and skate by a crew of 18 year old kids and one of them has a VHS camera with a fisheye taped to it. It’s just insane. But now, to them, that’s just like having a Super 8 camera in your bag. Just 14 times the size.

I was going to bring up Super 8 and how at one point in time, in that Photosynthesis / Mosaic era, that was the equivalent of what the VHS camera is now. At that point it was super saturated, and now it's representative of videos that are classics.

I see a shitload of indie videos. Every kid in America sends them to us. Every single fucking video where a kid is using a VX now and is in that indie world, every one of them still has Super 8 in it. It’s insane. Whatever lab is still processing Super 8 is just like 'What is going on? How is it still happening? We were going to shut this machine down...'

'We keep getting these kids bailing on kickflips'.

Can you imagine? That’s really come back heavy. Everything just gets saturated. It’s unavoidable now. Sam Salganik, in skateboarding, he should get credit for being the first to push the lo-fi look. And then Lev at Palace actually took it to the VHS realm.


Josh handed the camera off and shows us a proper backside noseblunt in Harlem.

Josh handed the camera off and shows us a proper backside noseblunt in Harlem.

Do you think the VX is going that route too? Is it the next Super 8 or VHS camera?

I don’t think so because it never disappeared and came back. There’s a huge culture of filmers that never left and never gave up on the VX. It is weird that for a 16 year old kid, the VX had stopped being made before he was born and he's buying the VX instead of an HD camera.

I don’t think the VX is a gimmick. It’s like saying for painters that since most of the art world moved on from oils to acrylics, oils are a gimmick. There’s still this culture of people who hold on to oil. It’s one of the foundations of that art form.