Interview: Julian Bah

Julian, where are you right now?
I am currently inside the Adapt warehouse, Pieter and Olga’s house, in The Hague, The Netherlands.

When was the last time that you visited Europe? (Or have you visited it before?)
Yes, I have visited Europe before, last time I was here was Winterclash 2009 or 2010, I believe.

How was your 2014 Winterclash experience?
This was my third one actually and the second one I’ve been to at Area 51. I also went to one in Germany and I think it was in 2007.
The contest is always a blast. A lot of people come out and it is really just a dope event. I just got back. I can tell you it was sick and everybody went crazy. A lot of people got hurt, I got hurt. I messed up my shin and needed to get stitches so I couldn’t skate the competition, but overall I had a great time.

Are you going to tour around for a little while and promote the skate?
Yes, I got here on Valentine’s Day and basically skated every day since then. We went to the Rotterdam Invitational at Skateland (in Rotterdam) and then we skated street every day after that, got a bunch of clips, toured around the Netherlands.

Tell us a little bit about the skate. How much of a difference will this be compared to the current ONE and Vegan skate?
First of all, there are the obvious differences; a different look with new skin design and new skin materials. The skin is made out of a stealth material in combination with real leather. We used some really high-end, high quality materials for the skin. As far as the inside of the skate, we modified the cuff area. There is a bit more padding so it feels like is has more cushioning. The cuff area is also a little bit higher for more support, and the whole foot bed is also new. It is the most comfortable insole I’ve ever put my foot on. It’s super sick.
We also made a little cut-out in the skin near the eyelets, which means the laces work like a powerstrap. This really works well; right where your ankle bends you can really strap your foot in. Also the tongue is a bit sturdier, it has a heatmoldable fibre inside the tongue that works really well for maintaining support.

How did your relationship with Adapt start? Many people were pretty interested to hear that you went from your last boot sponsor to Adapt.
Well, it is actually a pretty crazy story. I saw the skate for the first time at the Bittercold Showdown in 2012, and I really liked the look of it. The presentation was really dope; they displayed it on a wooden box. At this point in time I didn’t have a boot sponsor so I really wanted to try these blades. At the Bittercold, my buddy Brad Anthony told me that he was working with Adapt, he was going to be a US promoter for them. So then I was excited, because I figured it was pretty easy to get my hands on a pair through Brad. Then I let Brad know that I wanted to try them out, Brad said he would e-mail Pieter and Olga from Adapt and ask for a pair for me. He e-mailed Adapt and then got back to me and told me that he didn’t really have good news. He sent me the e-mail he got back from Adapt.
The e-mail was not really positive. They thought I didn’t quite fit the team and they were worried about my image. If Julian Bah skating for Adapt would work or not. But at the end of the e-mail they said it was still up for discussion. I took that as my opportunity to try to let them know where I was coming from. It made me look at myself and look at how this industry views me. It was like a realisation of what people thought of me.
I wrote them an e-mail and explained my situation and my thoughts. I guess that made them feel a little bit more comfortable in working with me and that is what convinced them. The rest is history, we’ve been working together ever since and it has been great.

What have you been doing over the past year? We haven’t seen too many clips of you recently, what projects do you have in store for us?
Well the past year, to be quite honest. The weather has been cold and bad in ATL, so basically that is why I haven’t skated that much. Other than that I’ve been working on a lot of music. I’ve been working with a lot of producers, DJ’s and rappers and trying just to make that happen for myself. I really want to make it with skating, I don’t really want to not have skating a part of what I do. I am always going to be skating, but there are other things I’ve been working on too that I really enjoy doing, so I need to do that as well. I feel like if I’m good at doing other things I should do those things as well. They make me happy. I’ve been making a lot of jewellery too. Look out for that, I will be releasing some new stuff soon. As far as skating goes, you should definitely look out for the Bladergang video. It is going to be something different, not like anything you’ve ever seen before. We’re trying to make blading something that is well received and we feel like we have what it takes to do that.

Photo: Alex Schneider
Photo: Alex Schneider

You performed some music at Winterclash. What would you say is your style of music? How did you get started in music? Who will be playing along with you this year?
We performed at Winterclash and it went great, it went almost as planned. There was a little hiccup with the track list but everything else went super smooth, it was great. Everybody seemed to like it a lot. Definitely hope to be back out here again and do the same thing, or anywhere else for that matter. We really want to start doing that more, bringing music in with the skating when on tour; skating during the day and performing during the night. I think that would be a dope way to include both, skating and music together. That’s one thing I really want to try and focus on this year.
My style of music…I don’t know, it is hard to explain really for me. I guess a lot of people would just say it’s rap, but I don’t really like to consider myself like a rapper. I don’t consider myself a lot of things that people consider me, like a ‘skater’. I just think so much different than a lot of skaters or rappers that I know so, it’s eclectic different things that I like, I bring in different songs in different times, I feel I bring in all types of music. I think that is what it is, I rap and sing and doo-wop and do stuff.

I basically started in music because of Franky (Morales). I went out to Miami one time and I went to his house and see how he does it, how he records. I had never seen it before and it was really cool to see. We recorded a track there, my first track I actually ever made and it was in the ‘Barely Dead’ documentary. That was the first track I ever did. From there I just went to Miami once in a while to record. I learned how to use everything and then I came to the point that I thought that I needed to get this in my house, so that’s what I did. I basically got the same stuff he had and started doing it myself. I started learning different techniques and stuff to do as far as like engineering my own tracks and cutting it and mixing it up. I started meeting rappers. People would come over to record at my house and some of those people I work with right now.

A good buddy of mine, D-millz, he actually skates too but I know him as a rapper. I told him about the trip to Winterclash and the performance and he thought it was really cool. I told him to come along, not really knowing that he would actually come through, but he did and that was really cool. I got a track with him in the mix that I wanted to play and it worked out really well everybody loved it.

Where are you located these days? Back in ATL? Who do you skate with? How often are you skating?
Yes I’m back in the ATL, that’s where I reside at these days. When I skate I probably skate with Sizemore, Carson (Starnes) and Chris (Smith). To be honest like I said, I haven’t been skating much lately, it’s been too cold and rainy, and it actually snowed two times. The skatepark is really far and it just closed down actually too, it’s not even there anymore. I do have a skatepark quite close to my house that I sometimes go to but it is kind of little so I just only cruise around for a bit, but whenever it’s nice out I try to skate every day. I usually get around 5 days of skating in a week when the weather is good.

How would you describe your style?
I would describe my style as… I don’t know, real smooth..haha
I’ve always been kind of in to how it looks, I think that is the progression skating, I think everybody is more focused on their feet and being in control, controlling their feet. I think that that is what skating is turning into – control. When I first started everybody was just landing however they wanted to land and just throwing their arms around and looking goofy with big kneepads, helmets, elbow pads. It just didn’t look cool, like it didn’t really matter that much what you did because it looked like shit anyway. I think now, people are more focused on how they look as a whole, not only how they are skating but also what they are wearing. I think that is really dope and where it needs to be. Everybody having a more pronounced style, is exactly what skating needs.
I am definitely focused on every movement that I make when I skate, but not really focused on it at the same time, if that makes sense. haha
Like, it’s come to be more natural now but when I look back at a clip and it doesn’t look really right I don’t want to put it out. I think a lot of skaters are like that now and I think that is a good place to be at for skating for sure.

How has it progressed/changed in your opinion since you started blading?
I kind of already explained that in the last question. Skating wasn’t refined. Nobody really had a style yet, it just looked sloppy. The way we skated up to stuff, the way we looked, I don’t even want to be associated with that, haha. The way THEY looked, haha now it is way more style in every aspect, clothes, where your hands are when you land. It has definitely gotten to a point that the best skaters look so comfortable on their blades, it looks like they are going through space and time on their blades, it looks like a continuous motion. It is only going to get better, turn more into a sort of art form. Just exhibits of live skating, that will be dope.

Where do you see blading headed in 2014? We’ve seen a little 90’s influence with “KCMO” fashion wise and toe rolls, are you bringing back spinning cess slides?
First of all spinning cess slides; definitely bringing them back. I think I was one of the first doing them as well. In my intro section I was doing this spinning unity cess slide down a little hill.
About the 90’s style in skating: I feel that the filming with the Hi8 camera doesn’t do the level of skating justice. I think that if you show it to somebody that doesn’t skate they will think it came from the 90’s and that is too close to where we are right now to be retro, you know? I think it is not the right time for that now. I might have a lot of people talking shit on me for that but that’s just my opinion.
As far as the toe rolls – I love ‘em; I might have to start doing some more myself!

Hammers or tech? Can I say both? Yes? Both!
Flat or anti? Flat, all day!
Big wheels or small wheels? It depends. Sometimes I ride smaller wheels when I ride flat to be able to grind. But I always love riding big wheels, since I was a kid. My friend had a big wheel when we were little and I loved it, haha.
Spin to win or steezy soul grind? I would say a steezy spinny cess slide to win!
Regular or switch? Both!

Shout outs?
First of all shout out to Pieter and Olga. I’m in their crib right now, the tour was dope. Thank you guys.
And I want to shout out to all you guys reading this interview and my friends and family. Thank you.