Danny Gonzalez’s tricks turned skateboarding upside down. He’s got a unique way of putting himself in difficult positions and getting the most creative impact out of whatever he’s doing. His devotion to off-kilter moves has kept skaters hooked on his footage for decades.
Just watch any of his video parts and you’ll realise that Danny has always been putting his creative tech skills to the test but most recently, he’s taken things in an entirely new direction by starting his own online art collective, called One Kelektiv.
So we had to hit him up to talk about his early days on a board, watching Rodney Mullen and Kevin Harris, getting hooked up by DLXSF at a Demo, learning Kickflip One Foot Nose Manuals, Shooting photos with Theo Hand and Gabe Morford, San Francisco, his Kickflip Melon down Wallenberg, filming for Transworld’s The Reason, Ty Evans, the story behind The Ceiling Ride and Wallride McTwist attempts, his art, and online collective, One Kelektiv.
We are stoked to announce that Danny Gonzalez is now a No Comply Network Member.
Read his interview to discover the stories behind what he’s done and his plans for the future.
How did you start to skateboard?
I have an older brother, so when you’re the younger sibling, you always kind of want to do what the older one does. So eventually he got a skateboard and I wanted a board too.
What kinds of spots were you skating?
Well in Texas, it was a lot of launch ramps, flatground, parking curbs, tables, benches and railroad wood that we’d railslide across or we’d do early grabs off launch ramps. I also grew up freestyling. The first year I skated I was a freestyler.
What was the first skate video that you saw?
Curb Dogs. It didn’t have any freestyling in it but I saw Future Primitive, which had Rodney Mullen in it. But essentially, I picked a freestyle board in 1987 because of my size. It wasn’t like “oh I want to be a freestyler!” but I was skating my freestyle board, doing freestyle tricks, and also doing street tricks. I was doing both and I just got the board because it was my size.
Okay, that’s understandable
Right, because I was 9, so if you had one of those big 80s boards where the trucks were huge, the wheels were big, and the decks were super heavy. My brother would set up my freestyle board but because Rodney Mullen and Kevin Harris were the best freestylers at the time and I had a freestyle board, I would learn the freestyle moves and regular street moves, doing both.
When did you first learn Kickflips?
Mark Gonzales was inspired by Rodney on the Kickflip. Then Mark and Natas took that to the streets. They were the first to really incorporate Rodney’s flip tricks into street skating. When that was happening, that was a movement. Everybody wanted to flip their board!
My brother and his friends were all trying to learn Kickflips. Learning Kickflips at the time was like everyone learning the Rubix Cube. It was an instinctive thing to do. But I had an easier time doing it because I had a freestyle board. It didn’t take me long to land one at age 9.
What motivated you to try to skate for a living?
The moment skating went from fun to thinking of it as a profession, came from necessity. I wasn’t passionate about anything else, and I didn’t have anything else to fall back on. It was all or nothing for me.
How did you go about making it happen?
I started filming a lot, making a part, and going to different cities skating with other people. So it was a change like that.
When did it all start to work out for you?
A pro skate team came to San Antonio to do a demo at our local warehouse. We all skated, and after the demo, they invited me to go and skate with them in SF and they handed me a card.
Who was at that demo?
Deluxe assembled a crew of different people, Mickey Reyes, Lance Mountain, Bob Burnquist
, Chris Pastras
, Andy Roy, and Johnny Fonseca. They were all there skating. So it was a mash up of Stereo, Real and Anti Hero. A few months later I ended up flying out to SF.
How was that trip?
I stayed in SF for a few weeks and shot some photographs and filmed. The day I was going to leave, they said, “hey, we are going to make you an amateur on the Stereo team” and that’s how it played out.
Where did you skate in SF and who with?
I can still close my eyes and remember all the spots I skated.
When I went there I connected with a photographer called Theo Hand
. Theo had filmed and shot everyone in San Francisco. It was a really big honour for me to hang out with him. He took me under his wing and showed me the city spots and it’s subculture as well.
Also Gabe Morford
, DLX’s in-house photographer, showed me a lot of places too.
What was it like shooting with Gabe Morford?
Gabe was a machine. He had all this equipment. He knew where all the spots were and he was the most dedicated skate photographer I’d ever seen! Because of all that, we shot a bunch. I flew back home to Texas and three months later the photos we’d shot, came out in the magazines.
What did you spend those three months doing?
I was skating quite a bit with my friends back in San Antonio. Three months goes by fast!
So when did you film your first video part?
My first video part was when I was 11. Then every other year since then I have filmed a part. Filming and skating go hand in hand, At first it was to mimic the VHS videos we watched. Eventually we were making parts with songs too.
How did the Wallenberg Flip Melon go down?
When filming for the Transworld video, The Reason was starting, Ty Evans was coming into San Francisco a lot. One day he reached out and asked if I wanted to film.
At the time, Ty Evans was like Spike Jonze or Martin Scorsese. He was a big deal and he had just put out a series of Transworld videos that were monumentally shifting for skateboarding and it’s culture!
As a skateboarder, whenever any photographer who is really good at their job, wants to shoot you, dude, you kind of put your body to the side and you want to try anything for them. I was pretty psyched!
I remember after ollieng the 4, coming up the hill and I said to Moses Itkonen, “I don’t know, what do you think?” He was like, “Well, you’ve done Kickflip backside grab down the 3 and you ollied the four…Now just put it together!” He said it like it was a simple task.
I’ll never forget it, but deep down I was hoping he’d say, if you’re not feeling it, don’t do it!
Must have felt gnarly to hillbomb and carve in
The first time I stopped. The second time I chickened out and ran down the stairs. The third time, I just went for it. I was very surprised I landed it on that first attempt.
I was super lucky to land it. The photographer at the time Pete Thompson
asked if I wanted to do it again for another angle. I said, no thanks, I’m good!
How did it feel to roll away?
When I landed it, I felt excited like a huge release of doing something I’d always wanted to accomplish but then when I got home and I told my roommate about what I did. I was like now what? It felt weird shooting my next trick after that because I felt like it didn’t stack up to that experience.
How do you come up with ideas for new tricks?
The ceiling ride. When you think of riding upside down in a ditch, there’s something else involved than just skating a spot and figuring out what you’re comfortable with. With tricks I haven’t seen before, I try to mentally play the trick in my head enough times where I feel comfortable. Then I go try it and mess up a million times like everyone else.
What about Kickflip One Foot Nose Manuals?
The Kickflip One Foot Nose Manual wasn’t actually my idea. My roommate William Burnett
said, you should do a Kickflip one-foot Nose Manual. Although it seemed impossible. I was determined to show him I could do it. I just want to give thanks to Will for that!
How did the ceiling ride come about?
I was living in an apartment with Brian Lotti.
I had built a bunk bed close to the ceiling and I was laying on my stomach. I put my feet up on the ceiling and for a moment I looked at my position and pretended the bed wasn’t there. That’s where I came up with that move, by accident.
At the time, I felt like, fuck! I don’t know if there’s enough time for me to bring it back in? There was a couple of times where I would over rotate out. I had to go to the spot twice to get it.
What was going down the day you landed it?
I was there for another hour trying it every five minutes non-stop. You know when your muscles just don’t have anymore. I was on the cusp of shutting down. I was drinking a lot of water, I caught my breath and right at the end of the session, I landed it.
How about the Wallride McTwist?
I planned on filming that for my Globe Opinion part, but I re-tweaked my knee back then.
What stopped you from getting the trick?
You know, it’s just injuries. You get comfortable and confident to try some of these things and then you get hurt. It just pulls you back; I couldn’t consistently stay healthy, but in general I had a million cushions in my apartment. My friends were like what are these for?
Ha that’s funny!
I rented out one of those big ass white 15 seater vans and I packed all of the cushions in there when I picked them up to go to the spot.
They were freaking out about all the cushions. Then we drove to San Diego. In general, if I could have gone straight at it and if the bank had been a bit longer and a bit steeper, I could have got higher on the wall, to complete my rotation on the way down.
And the Switch Heel One Foot Manual…?
My shoulders rotate sometimes when switch heeling. One time I landed in the position and that really was when it came to me. Also sometimes I get lucky and land some shit! A lot of times if you can visualise it in your head enough times, then you can do the trick.
What’s your favourite trick from The Reason?
The crooked grind across the three stairs, at the time, I was the first person to grind all the way across the 3 up 3 down in SF. I was pretty excited about that. The Lipslide that I did down the rail. Jamie Thomas was there, so that was special for me! Wallenberg too and my line at the trees at the DMV.
What was it like filming the tree lines?
Ty looked at me like, what do you want to do here? He was totally perplexed. I said, I’m going to skate these trees. I just explained my vision and he said okay, let’s do it. We got it fairly quickly. Ty and I were stoked in the end to get it.
When did you first start to make art?
I was a little boy when I first drew a picture for my dad but primarily if I drew anything it was in black and white. Now I work with other artists and collaborate as much as possible.
So is that what inspired One Kelektiv?
One Kelektiv is all inspired by that. There are so many artists who skate and skateboarders who are artists. They are really one and the same. It’s such a big community, I love it.
How did you decide to start One Kelektiv?
I started working on One Kelektiv
, a few months ago. Ultimately, I set about creating something that could support other people. We do a Q&A alongside showing their artwork and promoting their social media channels.
The goal I had was to create a collective where artists have different work on the site but it’s also a medium for them to push who they are and promote their brand.
Cool, so what’s the future of One Kelektiv?
From this point forward, it’s all about growing relationships. Hopefully create a podcast, YouTube channels, art shows, live streaming stuff and having some visual content would be nice!
Have you been skating much lately?
I’m focused on rehabbing injuries so I can do more skating. It’s just about having consistent physical wellbeing so I can go and film clips. My goal is just to do some tricks that people know me for.
People just want to see you skate