New Deal is back for their 30th anniversary and they're reissuing boards and videos from the early '90s era. We had a little chat with Steve Douglas, the man behind this come back. Da Deal is Back!
──STEVE DOUGLAS (ENGLISH)
[ JAPANESE / ENGLISH ]
Photos courtesy of Steve Douglas
VHSMAG (V)： Where are you from and when and how did you start skating?
Steve Douglas (S)： I am from London, England. I started skating in '76 in the streets and in skate parks. I watched Harrow skatepark be built that year and became a local, this is now famous for Ed Templeton's Welcome to Hell cover and Mike Frazier's frontside blunt in the halfpipe, which was a TWS cover.
V： You're not from the US and your first sponsor was Madrid. How did you break out from the UK scene and get hooked up in the US?
S： When I was younger I started in the under 14 division in the UK. I won all those contests and then I went to the under 16 contest in Sweden in '83 and won that and with that I got sponsored by Madrid. We used to have two US pros visit the UK every year on the way to the Swedish summer camp, it was amazing. That helped the UK skate scene immensely.
V： What was your big break in skateboarding?
S： Outside of learning how to knee slide I would say the expo contest in Vancouver in '86 where I got 3rd place in the vert World Championship.
V： You started your career as pro at Schmitt Stix in the late 80s. How did you start New Deal?
S： We were part of Vision sports and we were like an unwanted family member. Bob Denike at NHS approached me at a trade show and said, "When you want to get out we will back you." When he said that to me, I ran to Paul Schmitt and I told him what Bob has said. He replied, “I have known that and so would Rocco.” I knew then we would leave, I would do everything in my power to do our own thing. When Chris Miller quit, that was it. Andy Howell and myself had been talking, Paul was going to go with the new company or we would leave. I got the name from my local skateshop in NW London called New Deal Skates. I sat down at the NSA contest in January or February in '90 and told Paul the plans, luckily he went for it.
V： You were actively skating as pro and running the company at the same time. What were the challenges?
S： None at the time. It was just fun, a lot of work but it didn't seem like work. I loved and threw all my energy into it.
V： You eventually retired from pro and focused on running the company. How was the transition like?
S： Easy as I was nearly killed in car crash. New Deal Skateboards actually saved my life, as the car was full of boards. I was dropping an order off to a shop. Without them I probably would have died. Even with them I was very close to death, in fact they didn't expect me to last the night.
V： What was the accident like? Did that completely end your skate career? Are you able to skate at all now?
S： Yes, 100% ended my skate career. I would never be able to skate like I did before, I continued to skate but it was like riding in someone else's body. My mind said I could do it, but my balance was completely off. I was skating two or three times a week until eight years ago, and then I got skating which had me on rehab for 18 months then I broke my foot. Now I just push around.
V： How did you gather the team for New Deal? What did you look for in the riders?
S： Many of the riders were Schmitt riders, we wanted our existing riders to pick up talent and so many did. We watched sponsor me videos and this is how we picked up Armando Barajas. We looked for not only great skaters but also great people.
V： You made first three videos. What was the process like?
S： Very long process, everything was hand written down, notes and notes of tricks and then having to figure out the part in your mind then put it to paper and then link all parts. Then I would make the video in order one trick at a time, watch the whole thing, dissect it and back to the paper again. And then next one was what you saw. We would do the intro and credits in a studio but everything else was done at Paul’s house.
V： 15 Minute Promo. Behind the scene stories?
S： Majority of that footage was Schmitt's and some of my footage was four years old! While I was making the video, Andy and Gorm Boberg was making the artwork, Paul was in the factory making shapes. It was a magical time.
V： How about Useless Wooden Toys?
S： I remember finishing the video and turning up at a CASL end of years banquet and I had been editing for weeks. Sonja Catalano introduced the video and said Paul has just finished the video and my heart sank...
V： Did the title 1281 come from the film Stand by Me? I was watching it the other day and the population of the town in the film was 1281 people...
S： It was our address…
V： Okay (laughs). Could you tell us a little bit about The Odd Numbers? Their music brings back memories of the New Deal days.
S： When I was making the promo video, the music was going to be Agent Orange. At the very last moment, their agent called Paul and said we couldn't use it as it would ruin their potential new record deal. I was crushed as the video was ready to go and we wanted to release it as the boards got shipped. It seemed like that news was told to me Friday AM, and Friday PM we drove back up to San Jose, I saw my good old friend Ray Stevens (the Faction and 819 productions) and told him my predicament. He gave me a demo tape from the Odd Numbers. The rest is history, we have been friends ever since.
V： Tell me about the transition from you passing over making the New Deal videos to the starting of 411VM.
S： One of our New Deal riders Josh Friedberg wanted to be involved in the business side. I knew I needed to stop making the videos for a few reasons. I was getting more and more involved in the business, and also editing was going to be digital and I was not good reading manuals. Josh was enthusiastic and eager to learn. I was on a trip to the UK and called Josh to check in. I said, "Josh how are you doing on the New Deal video?" He said, "Done." I was like wow. Next question was, "How are you doing on the Underworld Element SkyPager video?" He said, "Almost done." I was like incredible! And then I asked him how he was doing on the zine we were to make with New Deal, Mad Circle and Underworld Element. The idea was to take video grabs and put them on paper to make the zine. Josh said that's so slow and it’s a nightmare. I suggested we should just keep it on video as that is quicker and make a video magazine. Josh agreed and said that would certainly be easier. Then I told him what if it was not just our companies but all the companies...? That was the start.
V： What was the best thing about riding for and running New Deal?
V： What's your fondest memory from the New Deal days?
S： Creativity being able to follow your passion with like-minded people.
V： It seems there were many skaters from outside of the US starting business in the '90s (Don Brown, Pierre Andre, Per Welinder, etc. Skin Phillips was chief editor at TWS as well...). What do you think is the reason for that?
S： I think the main reason that US is so successful is that they have taken people in that have for whatever right or wrong reason made the trip to come there... In the old days the chances of death were very real. For us skateboarders, it was certainly easier to get to the US but we still had to leave behind everything. Many of us had burnt the boat as they say there was no going back.
V： New Deal is coming back after 30 years. How did this come about?
S： Andy, myself and Paul had constantly been asked over the years independently. I spoken to Paul a few times and he had said that he didn't have the bandwidth to pull it off and also he didn't have the master tapes. I was like, "Well, no masters no re-issues." Then I saw through Instagram that they had been found, but Paul said it’s not the time. Then I tried once more, told him that 30 years anniversary is coming up and if we don't do it now then we never will. I had the time and I could manage it. He told me to speak to Andy. He was in as long as we can bring in a new New Deal part to it and that was music to my ears. We have two worlds of New Deal, the re-issues through Dwindle and then we have a small limited distribution line called New Deal WTF which comes out in October. This is our new creative outlet while celebrating the past.
V： I remember New Deal going through phases. Which era are you most stoked on?
S： '90 to '92 without a doubt, but all the riders till the end were amazing.
V： You're focusing on the early 90s era for this come back. What's the reason for that?
S： 30 years and I personally made the first three videos so it makes sense.
V： The team back then was amazing, there were a lot of innovative street skaters. Witnessing street skating evolving, what was that like?
S： Incredible. I came to the US in '85 and I was lucky enough to meet certain skater like Mark Gonzales. He blew my mind and I would like to say we became good friends.
V： What are the products that are being re-issued?
S： We're releasing the best of boards through '90 to '92 and who knows where we go in the future... but the WTF line is going to turn a lot of heads next summer. We're also making a DVD and that will have a best of remix from '90 to '92.
V： Could you tell me more about the limited edition DVD?
S： We got many requests for a DVD so we decided to do it. We hired Socrates Leal to remix the old parts with the help of the team and made a "Best of '90 to '92." Full video for the DVD along with other extras. It's a fun project I think people will like it.
V： What do you think is the thing that New Deal brought to skateboarding?
S： The begging of the end of non skateboarders owning skateboard companies and distributors around the world. Also creativity and the ability to work closer with the riders.
V： What's next for you?
S： This is a major focus of mine but I also have two other skate related businesses in the UK. I'm certainly busy again but all in all I love it!
Born in 1967, from London UK. He's known as a professional vert skater from the '80s who started New Deal, Underworld Element, 411VM, Destructo, etc. He's also responsible for some of the biggest distributors in the industry such as Giant and Dwindle. Currently he's focused on the come back of New Deal with its 30th anniversary coming up next year.