press play on the 90s skate videos that are still shaping culture today
Larry Clark's Kids turned 20 this year and to mark the anniversary we look back at the iconic skate videos of the 90s, many of which feature Kids cast members Harold Hunter and Justin Pierce.
This year Larry Clark's Kids turned 20 and a slew of 90s nostalgia think pieces and "where are they now?" articles spun around the internet. To mark the occasion, there was a special reunion screening in New York with most of the original cast and crew; Supreme did a collab with the director, and just this week Hamilton Harris (the skater who appears in the movie rolling a blunt in Washington Square Park) launched a Kickstarter for his documentary on the film. In 2015, it seems Kids has reached peak popularity.
Kids might not be a skate film but it is completely rooted in skate culture; the majority of the cast, including Harold Hunter, Justin Pierce and writer Harmony Korine, were skaters in real life. Today that same subculture continues to impact the wider culture more than ever, seeping into the mainstream via mass market stores keen for a slice of the seemingly never-ending 90s revival. But a lot of teens today - teens who can barely remember the 90s because they were still in diapers - don't know where this stuff comes from. They sport Palace hoodies and watch skate videos shot on VHS in 2015 but they've never seen Memory Screen. So let's take it back to the concrete streets.
Memory Screen (Alien Workshop, 1991)
The first Alien Workshop video stands as one of the trippiest skate videos ever made, and arguably the company's most influential. Harmony Korine recently admitted that Gummo was hugely inspired by Memory Screen, particularly its degraded visuals. At times the video feels more like an avant-garde visual experiment than something made to spotlight the gnar shredding of Bo Turner, Rob Dyrdek and other Workshop riders. Can you imagine a brand making a video as audacious as this today? Heck, the actual skating doesn't even kick in till the five-minute mark, it's just warped sounds and visuals: a grasshopper, a bomb exploding, a church accompanied by the guitars of Dinosaur Jr. (the most ubiquitous band in 90s skate videos, as you'll see). It all amounts to an assaultive montage, a fragmented memory, by the end of which you're dying to grab your Dinosaur Jr. T-shirt, your suede Airwalks and take to the streets with your trusty plank. Most of the artful skate videos you see today owe a debt to Memory Screen.
Video Days (Blind Skateboards, 1991)
In Kids, Video Days is the video that plays in the background when Justin Pierce and his mates are doing laughing gas on the sofa. Clark cuts to the TV and we see Mark "The Gonz" Gonzales lying down on his board as he weaves through traffic. A pre-fame Spike Jonze was the creative genius behind this video. Today Video Days has kind of become the Citizen Kane of skate videos - it tops most skaters' "best skate videos of all time" lists - and today every skater wants to be The Gonz: to skate creatively, to have a sense of style, to have that off-kilter charm, to make skating to John Coltrane cool. Skateboarding has never looked this fun. And because it's the 90s, yes, there's another Dinosaur Jr. track in there.
Love Child (World Industries, 1992)
Just a few years ago, any fashion conscious skater would have scoffed at the baggy, cut-off trousers on display here, but today they probably wouldn't bat an eyelid. Love Child is a key video of the decade because it's one of the best time capsules we have of the Embarcadero (EMB) scene. Located in San Francisco, the legendary skate spot is famous for being rough, both in terms of its surface and the guys who skated it. In a sense it was a West Coast spot with an East Coast vibe. Out-of-towners were routinely ridiculed by locals and booted out. Watching Love Child now, you notice how skating has kind of come full circle; the gulf between then and now that seemed to exist in the early 2000s has gone. Skaters aren't as fussy about landing their tricks sloppily; they don't care as much if their toe slipped a little off their board when they landed a trick. The best thing that skaters - or at least some skaters - of today are reclaiming from the 90s is that skating is fun and goofy again.
Underachievers: Eastern Exposure 3 (1996)
Back to the East Coast and to Dan Wolfe's Eastern Exposure 3. When skaters today talk about getting "that raw east coast look," with night time lines shot in black and white, they usually have Eastern Exposure in mind. The highlight of the video, aside from seeing footage of Harold Hunter at the Brooklyn Banks, comes when Philly skater Ricky Oyola enters the frame. He rides up people's houses, skates through traffic, does notably long lines, and skates to Metallica's Damage, Inc. Videographer Josh Stewart summed up his appeal in an Epicly Later'd episode: "Ricky captured that blue collar street skating vibe that I think everybody on the East Coast not just identified with but... it just empowered everybody." Oh, and did I mention this video features yet another Dinosaur Jr. song?
Mixtape (Zoo York, 1997)
In the Palace video Gangbanging At Ground Zero there's a clear hat-tip to one of the finest videos of the 90s, Zoo York's Mixtape. In the Big Apple, UK rider Rory Milanes skates to Fat Joe and Keith Nut, to the same **very rare** song that features here in Jeff Pang's section. But then, Palace have always dipped back into the 90s hip hop flavor of Mixtape, whose banger-filled soundtrack includes Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, and more. Finally, to link back to the ever-influential Kids again, Mixtape features skaters Harold Hunter and Justin Pierce (he plays Casper) just after they were immortalized in their big screen debut. Pierce took his own life in 2000 while Hunter died of a cocaine-induced heart attack in 2006. But legends never die.
Text Oliver Lunn