We’d been wanting to talk to Reuben Bullock for a while now about his skating, music, and life in general. We finally got a chance to sit down with him last week and this is what he said:
all photos by Ian Snow
What have you been up to, Reuben?
Doing lots of music stuff. And I went back to school and finished carpentry, the journeyman program at SAIT. I just did the last two years back to back– just finished like a week ago.
Are you playing lots of shows these days?
Yeah, I am and I have an album coming out on May 31st.
Is it you and your brother?
I have three other guys in the band full time. One of them is my younger brother, my older brother plays with us sometimes. It kind of fluctuates from 4-6 people but it’s a full band. The only difference is we don’t have a band name – we just keep my name.
Is it mostly acoustic?
Some of it is, but now that I’m playing with a full band there are a few songs that are just rock and roll. It’s kind of veering away from the “guy with the acoustic guitar”—I’m kind of tired of that. It’s nicer to play with a band and play big shows. It’s easier to be in a group instead of staring at a bunch of people by yourself. It’s easier for people to watch too. When there’s only one guy on stage, the crowd kind of keeps their distance a bit but when you have a band, everyone can come up and enjoy it.
What about skating? Have you been out this Spring?
Yes, totally. I’ve been out skating more than I have in years already so I’m pretty stoked on it for the Summer.
Are you hitting the streets or parks?
Just street skating but I went up to Airdrie a few weeks ago but it was pretty dirty still. I’m definitely feeling good about skateboarding this year. I want to give it a solid go. It’s been so sporadic for me for so many years now.
It can be hard to juggle school, work, and other interests I think. How old are you now?
You still have a lot of years left in you.
I feel like it too. I have no physical problems, nothing slowing me down.
Wow. That’s better than most people who have been skating a long time. Do you plan on shooting photos or filming at all?
Yes. Artschool is going to be doing something. We’ve been talking about doing a video for a couple of years but I’d like to film it all this Summer I think. So, depending on when they want to put something out I’d like to get a part together that’s just filmed all at one time. Because right now it would be a collection of six years worth of footage. I wouldn’t look very good.
I remember one of the first photos I saw of you, maybe in Concrete Magazine, it was a pretty massive rail. You kind of became known for skating large rails. What was the biggest rail you hit
I think that one was probably 18 stairs—that was the biggest one. It was in SBC ages ago. I 50 50-ed it.
Any bad bails on it?
Yeah. I landed it and then rode into the grass. So I was like “I want to do it again”. I was way too confident—I hit both of my wheels on the rail going up and then planted both of my feet on the top of the rail. I jumped the entire set of stairs to my shoulder and face. I cleared the whole rail and stairs and just scorpioned. It was bad.
Mike Kozan shot that photo?
Yeah. I haven’t talked to him in a few years.
Bummer about the whole Skaters thing, hey?
It is. I hadn’t been around there too much, other than popping into the South store. I haven’t seen Bernie in a couple years. I heard about it after it was all done. It’s too bad because those guys are really cool and I like their approach. Laid back, just nice guys.
Kind of says a lot about the state of skateboarding in Calgary.
Yeah, it seems like anything can be ordered online and the focus isn’t on local skate shops. The sport is strong but it doesn’t associate with the shops these days.
Every local shop used to put out a video every year.
The one cool thing is the DIY approach that everyone has these days. Everyone has a video camera and editing programs so it doesn’t take much for that scene to thrive. All it takes is someone like Rob [Thorpe]. He wasn’t a filmer, just a skater. He bought a camera and then instantly it was started. He filled a void. He creating a scene at that time and it could happen again. It’s just a matter of people sticking with it and pushing to do stuff.
Every kid has Youtube and Vimeo videos now.
But that’s the thing. It takes more than that. You have to treat it—Rob was professional. The way he handled himself, the way he collected footage, the way he presented things, getting T-shirts made and actual DVDs. When people approach something with that kind of professionalism it has a different effect. It’s the same with anything. You can have MP3s floating around on the internet but if someone puts out a real album on vinyl, that’s quality. It’s the same approach that is needed in skateboarding.
Why do you think there are less people taking photos?
Video is really accessible and it’s really easy to make something look rad. Just click a button on an editing program. But with shooting photos—that’s more of an art form. You have to really know what you’re doing and put in time. Things that are easy and quick—that’s what people are going for. It takes guys like Jeff Thorburn and Ian Snow who really hone their craft and it shows.
What was the last photo that you shot?
It was probably with Ian. SBC did this 48 hour contest but none of our photos got published. I think something happened to the photos because we didn’t get to see them. He had to send the film back but it must have been over-exposed or blurry.
What about spots? Do you have any favourites?
Holy Cross hospital was pretty fun. They had a fun bank to curb, wallie things, and flat rails. I’ve already been there but there’s a dumpster in the way now. And it’s full of gravel.
What’s your take on Millennium Park?
I don’t know. I never go there. And when I do I can’t wait to leave. There’s something about it. Maybe the lack of colour might have something to do with it. I just feel drained when I’m there. Like I’ll roll around and I’ll feel exhausted. It’s cool having a big skatepark and it’s great that lots of kids use it but it’s not enough. I’ve always thought of it as a zoo. The city is like, “We built you a zoo, why are you still skating downtown?” It’s not a natural thing. It’s nice to have more diversity and obstacles. Even having different texture is important.
Have you hit any of the other parks up?
Yeah, the Airdrie one is pretty rad. And Cochrane, Strathmore. I haven’t been to Canmore or Olds yet. I think Artschool is going to be doing some demos. I think we have one coming up in Cochrane.
Is Artschool your main sponsor?
Yes. Mark’s such a good guy. When he asked me to ride for them I didn’t want to. I just want to have fun and I’m not too worried about stuff. I’ve gone through about three skateboards in three years. My boards last forever. I can ride them until they’re done. They’re good guys and the team is pretty rad.
They’re kind of taking over from the shops and making a bit of a scene.
They have a good professional approach but at the same time the team is relaxed. It’s the perfect balance of taking yourself seriously and not taking yourself too seriously.
Are you sponsoring anybody right now? Anyone on the Reuben flow program?
Ha, ha, yeah. Darcy is my “little brother”. He’s pretty much on Artschool flow. He might even have even more than I do. I’m not sure how he does it—he wins all these City of Calgary contests. He’s super good. He’s only 11. He was skating when I first met him when he was 6. He was really good then and he’s just gotten even better. It’s pretty insane, actually. He’s gonna do something—whatever he wants to do. He can do all these flip tricks now.
Are you still riding motorcycles?
Yeah, I just got a new one last year. My girlfriend, Angela, bought it for me. But I didn’t get to ride it last year. It broke down when I brought it home and I just got too busy. I’m going to work on it next weekend though. It’s an old 750 Honda CB. A 1979 or something. I’d like to take a good bike trip this Summer.
Who do you skate with?
I skate with Denis Lebel all the time. And lots of the old guys from that crew, like Devin Morrison. I haven’t skated with him in a while but I’m sure we will soon. Other guys are Rob Thorpe and Ian Snow.
Any thanks or shout outs?
Shout outs to people skating in Calgary.