Jo Zenk is a true professional. His demeanor in communicating with the blading media, meaning Be-Mag in this situation, is without flaw, he is concentrated, proactive and responsible, everything that should be expected of a professional in any industry. This interview also shows, as his friends and family already know, and the rollerblading world will learn, that he is passionate about blading, and a rollerblading intellectual, meaning a thinker that brings new, well thought out perspective to the field he’s active in. But above all, my brief communication with him and the interview we worked on, showed that he’s a warm person, and I believe that all of this transcends into his blading quite literally. I am sure that all his talents combined worked towards him becoming a pro for Ground Control. At last, his new GC Blacklisted section, that you’re seeing for the first time on Be-Mag was the initial reason why we got together for the interview. Enjoy the interview and his excellent pro introduction for Ground Control.
Words by: Josip Jagić
So Jo, How long did it take for you to film the section after you found out you got Blacklisted?
Hey Josip, first of all let me thank you for this opportunity! Big Up keeping Be-Mag alive and running!
Hmm… actually I was asked to ride for GC about a year ago. We discussed about better possibilities to support me at Real Street Nuremberg ’15 since Remz was not able to do so at the moment and I barely had enough skates. Since then GC kind of stepped in and since it’s the same distribution I never had any difficulties of getting blades anymore. So this is how it actually started and for sure I got juiced a lot since besides Grindhouse this is the first international sponsor to put me on a Pro team so I immediately started to film on a new level for GC. Since manifesting a section works like every other goal, it’s vision is shaped over time and the path it takes may vary from what you visualized in the very beginning. So actually I filmed about two and a half sections but cut everything not fitting for the concept I was shaping. This was a lot of fun as I was taking care about every detail of the concept myself yet with a lot of help of the homies. Especially Deniz Baethke, who was into the project since day one and he dug himself deep into it and how he wanted to film it. So all over I’d say it took me a year of filming.
What do you think GC expected from you as a skater which got you on the team in the end?
I think they expected me to keep doing what I do since I got hooked up as explained before. I consider myself currently as one of the few German bladers that realize projects like this on their own so this is probably one of the main reasons why GC was having interest in myself. It can be hard sometimes to find out what sponsors actually expect from you but since I think my own expectations are higher anyways. I do not really think about that too much. Still, I care about the philosophy, style and image of the brand I represent before producing any content. This section could have been dropped for other sponsors but I would always have in mind that it was produced for GC and I guess you could see it as well.
How are they supporting your blading now?
At the moment the most important for me is that I get my blades directly via their distribution but for GC itself for sure I get hooked up with their products which is awesome and they also sent me to different international events which is even more awesome. This way I was able to head over to the Nils Jansons Invitational and Real street CPH for example. Also for sure it is a big point to increase the network and that is bringing so much opportunities.
You are a part of the younger generation of German bladers that’s really reshaping the game. You told me that you got a bit weary of blading but found new inspiration again. How did you find this inspiration to blade so well again?
Actually, blading always has been the main priority in my life and school, working and even my nowadays studies in the Netherlands couldn’t change that. However I was confronted with the biggest crisis I could imagine when my mom died of cancer in October ’14 and I was arriving at her death bed two hours too late to see her for the last time. This pushed me into a hell I could not even imagine beforehand, even though I was living with the fact of her dying for a long time already. At this point I was releasing my Remz 2014 part which was actually just a mashup of clips I filmed on the side during filming my homies as I was stepping back from projects since my focus was scattered.
The universe though is perfect as it is and things happen for a reason mankind is not designed to understand. The biggest miseries are the biggest opportunities and if you don’t take them like that it would truly be sad. So in the end the deepest misery enabled the birth of the person that was able to become the one I am today and I am thankful for the process of waking up this made me go through. I shaped a new view of the world for myself, and figured out what was important and what not. Even though I went through a long and deep phase of depression since her death, it finally triggered so many positive changes within my life that I can’t imagine myself without this process.
When I finally came to the point where I was able to fully accept everything of my perceived reality as I experience it in my mind, including the harder things to accept, I was ready again and getting hooked up by GC kind of manifested at the perfect timing in my life to grow focus and visions of my blading again. Since then, I was back on track and I think people can see how the reshaping of my inner world immediately manifested within the outer realm. Starting 2016, I am focused again and I am now aware of my path and being able to accept whatever I may come across helped me use my potential to the fullest. What I was visualizing in my head only before is now almost easy to manifest. I learned spiritual techniques that helped me shape my view of the world and attract positive things with my mind. In the end it all comes down to tools like body and mind we are all technically able to use but no one ever told us how to actually do it. This is why it seems like miracles or Superpowers for me still, but from a higher perspective it is all natural.
What goes through your mind when you come up with new tricks, and who inspires you?
This is a good question actually I need to start with my definition of the term “Pro” which was used for professional back in the days and you would be considered “pro” when you get paid for what you do. I don’t have to tell you this changed a lot and there is almost no actual Pros of this definition within our sport anymore. However within every art or profession you go through three phases. Orientation, reproduction and production. A long time I was fixed within the reproduction like I was trying to get the same shots I was seeing through my childhood by my heroes in the many skate videos. However I kind of realized I had seen almost everything before and I found I should only reproduce what I could do better or differently, no matter if it’s the spot or trick or even angle to shoot. I was still under the pressure what was accepted within the community. I was caring about other peoples’ opinion more than my own. Since the aforementioned life changing event in my life I was confronted with my inner demons and started not caring anymore what was accepted and what not within the rollerblading world. Therefore I was starting to think by myself, enabling truly creative processes. I now look at the whole game from a different angle. I get inspired by everyone thinking out of the box, from Latimer over Sagona, Mushroom Blading, Danny Beer, Briggs, blading from every other cultural background like the Asian guys or even other sports like skiing or whatever else I come across. A huge influence, not so much in terms of blading, but how to handle the realization of projects for sure is Eugen Enin, as he is the superpro that is able to do all what I learned just without the need to go through crisis. All this together enabled my true potential and natural gifts to flourish. I considered my vert skills from back in the day more interesting again and I got back to doing channel tricks. I did them since my early miniramp days but since everyone considered it as a joke I was as well and therefore not shaping them into something more. However everything you do, as bulky or weird it may look in the beginning, if you proceed doing it, it turns out cool in the end. Now I don’t give a damn anymore what anybody think and get excited by everyone that thinks for himself.
In my mind, you and Eugen are a bit like what Shima and Elliott, or Latimer and Gillan used to be in the late nineties. Do you think that today’s blading media kind of doesn’t really capture the personalities and the dynamics of blading scenes?
Ok, this comparison sounds crazy actually, but I take it as a huge compliment. For sure it doesn’t. Professionalism in blading media is swiped out and I think there is only a few brands that really get the personalities and dynamics out there. It is so small now that there seems to be less room for media in the first place. Also no one seems to find it important to care about personalities and blade videos usually only cover the blading content (which sometimes can be boring). It’s a pity cause if you know the person behind it you immediately have more interest in their blading and therefore also can get more out of watching a section. In my eyes this is one point that pushes into the down going spiral of professional blading.
What do you think is the next biggest trend in blading? For a while now, we’ve had everybody trying out flat skating again, and it seems to have caught on, do you think it’s good for the progression of blading?
Yeah I guess flat skating is fun as you are more agile and fast. The whole trend is going towards Big Wheels, FSK, and so on and why not. It is fun as hell! Actually without my love for channel tricks I would never change my BIG frame as other people actually do it nowadays. Another thing I see is that our scene is getting older and older as there are not that many young guns coming up as there are older bladers. These people may want to blade with less tricks but more speed and “easy fun”. This could be a good thing for blading since more speed and more fun is favoring people from the outside to give it a try. This was actually the birth of the sport, parents blading for fitness and speed, their kids would be bored and start doing crazy stuff for fun and impress the girls, haha. So considering big wheels as a huge part of our nowadays scene is a great step into growing again. Also if you watch the guys destroying it on 100mm it is just impressive! And inspiring! I personally use my 6000series GC frame pretty often to cruise and jump around.
Do you have any new goals in blading, after getting on GC?
Having fun haha, Living in the here and now and realizing my visions when they start shaping themselves naturally. Getting on GC was no actual goal from me as I didn’t think about it before it happened and I would not think I do it in the future like that. Opportunities happen when you’re ready for them. So I start with myself and keep on waking up more and more plus shaping my mind and superpowers to a realm I am not able to grasp yet. Learning in the school of everyday life is a great drive. Living in paradise and keep hell far away should be goal number one as this base lets everything happen naturally.
What’s your next project?
Besides cutting the footage we managed to get together during #remzweek between the Shred Cologne and the RZRS NBG Jam (good stuff, stay tuned), I am currently working on a few different projects already, mainly for MNSTR BLADE my local crew (check us out on fb) and Grindhouse my other main sponsor I can’t thank enough for what they enabled me to do this year. For the winter we planned a few park collaborations between the crews. For sure Borklyn Zoo x MNSTR and maybe we get some other fresh stuff going. Plans are also already shaping for spring but since this is always changing itself on the way I can’t really say what will be realized and what not. For sure I will continue my work with MNSTR BLADE and enjoying the sessions with Eugen will be one of the most exciting thing as within this connection I am able to produce high quality content since our combined energy and workflow makes it very easy. (check the Borklyn Zoo VOD for some of the sessions we shared!!) Being open minded about everything stays most important as you never know when the next opportunity is at the doorstep.
So, the end is almost always reserved for shoutouts, so here’s your opportunity to do one?
At first I’d like to thank you for taking the time and helping me spread this! Also to everybody that helped realize this project.
First of all Deniz Baethke for supporting me with not only filming many hours but also visualizing the first outlining of the project with me and always pushing me to go 100%. Daniel Enin for filming on his own, so that I could just have fun sessioning with his brother, ending with amazing clips in the end. That very brother, Eugen Enin for so much energy and inspiration, never failing to get me going full power. The MNSTR BLADE crew especially Patrick Smith, Aleks Popvasilev and Benni Petry for always holding it down. My sponsors Ground Control, Grindhouse, Remz for supporting me the best they can! Go get your Remz & GC stuff at www.grindhouse.eu! They are the best!
Thanks to Jonas Hansson and some of the CPH scene for reviewing the section and reinforcing the way I was putting the clips together! All the (scooter-) kids along the way I showed the section to check for objective, innocent opinions. Thank you also to the blading family always keeping me going and inspiring me. You guys know who you are, even though most of you are spread everywhere in the world! Second Family for sure!
I am especially grateful for my lady Mimi Garcia for always understanding how important my passion is for me. Also for being there for me while I was in my darkest times.
I want to thank my Family for being there for me in the hardest of my times, All the others that I consider family ever since. For sure my Mom as she was the best Mom in the world and the most important person in my life, then and now even in her absence she gave me the biggest gift – of getting me on this path I am ever since! The people I met and helped me along my path, especially Marcel v. Oosterwijk who inspired me so much. I even want to thank all the authors of the many great books I read along the way. Its too many to name but while thanking at last the readers and viewers of this interview and section I want to make you all a gift with naming the most influential books to all of you: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho; The path of the peaceful warrior, by Dan Millman + all of his other book; The art of loving by Erich Fromm. We are all One!
Filmed by: Deniz Baethke / Daniel Enin, additional filming by Patrick J. Smith
Directed and edited by: Jo Zenk