Good things are always worth waiting for.
Aren’t rider owned brands a beautiful thing?
And none more so than FORMER. Created by arguably two of the world’s best surfers in Dane Reynolds, Craig Anderson as well as perhaps one of the best, if not the most stylish skateboarder walking the earth, Monsieur Austyn Gillette and conceptualised by the late and utterly timeless Dylan Rieder.
To celebrate the launch of Former in Europe for Spring 20, and now available through Wasted Talent Boutique, we decided to jump on the phone and pick Austyn’s brain in how running one of the most hyped independent brands came to be? How difficult merging surf and skate culture is? The history, the future, the fickle demographical tropes, the lack of a shoe sponsor, sml wheels, Epokhe sunnies, favourite Lynch movies and music to ensure survival during these turbulent times.
Without further ado. Mr Austyn Gillette.
Hey Austyn! For those out the loop tell us how you first met the Former gang?
It was weird, we were actually looking at photos recently and laughing at how young we all looked. I guess that was 7 years ago. We met on a ‘Team Average’ trip. Craig (Anderson) & Dylan (Rieder) was on the trip too and I didn’t even know who Dane & Craig were. I didn’t know anything about surfing at all. it was just like, “oh these are the guys that are kinda like you guys but surfers”. And I’m like, “oh ok that’s cool”. There wasn’t any kind of prejudice, I mean our group of friends are pretty easy going. They seem the same. I don’t think anything’s changed. Shy. Extremely talented.
And how did it blossom from there because I guess Craig being on HUF at the time kinda helped cement that bond?
Yeah Dylan & I were already on and Dylan was already into surfing. He was like, “I wanna get Craig on, that’d be great”. At that point we were already kinda talking about Former and we reconnected through Campbell who does Monster Children. He sent us all an email with Craig, Dane, Dylan & I. They were all out of their Quiksilver contracts and we didn’t have a clothing deal so we kind of hashed it that way through an email where Campbell’s like ‘hey you guys should start a company’. He stepped back and we started talking.
And now is it pretty much just you & Dane running things?
I’ve been running most of it here in LA with my brother.
Because Dane’s too busy with 3 kids I guess?
Yeah and just because we’d moved it to his garage which is a master garage, a nice one but it just wasn’t going to work in the long run.
And are you still living in the same place in Highland Park?
No I rent that out but I live 3 blocks away from there in my friend’s backyard. I just have a tent (laughs). No it’s my friend’s cabin in her backyard. It’s small but it feels like I’m in a different country.
So he came out here like a month or so ago. I think his girlfriend lives in San Francisco, she’s going to school or something out here and he just came by and was like, “hey do you guys need footage? Can I get a t-shirt or something?”. And I just gave him a bunch of clothes and said, “yeah! Give us fucking anything!”. I think it’s just that on the surf side, it’s so relaxed I don’t even know. I get how the skate side works, but I don’t know about the surf side.
It’s funny, when we spoke to Dane for Volume II, he was telling us how he’s very influenced by skate videos, like Polar videos and stuff. His knowledge of skateboarding is insane.
Yeah he watches it more than the rest of us.
He’s the best but I feel for him because when he’s at events, you can see everyone wants their two minutes with him. It must be exhausting?
Yeah that stuff’s hard. Like going out to eat with him or doing anything is kind of a ‘thing’. I feel bad for him.
So how do you guys delegate stuff? Like despite you running it, the guys must also have a say?
Well Dane kinda handles all surf. He really just wants to watch the skating. He doesn’t impose his ideas. I mean we’ve asked him to do projects but he’s just so busy with the family. But it’d be cool to get his take on skateboarding. Like that’s what I was thinking for the next project. Getting Dane to produce the whole thing and we’re planning on doing a few trips. Both surf and skate and kinda having him take the wheel and see what he could create. Just because that sort of scope will get people watching. I mean I don’t wanna edit any videos. I don’t care for that. It’s always just been easier to skate. Dane excels in the editing world and in having a vision from beginning to end and tying in a concept to a video so, I’m hiring him right now. He’s now the skate editor.
It’s really exciting that he’s just released Chapter 11 TV.
Yeah he seems pretty excited about it too. It’s kinda for his friends up there that ride for other companies but he surfs with them everyday and so he can share his day to day. And he should have a way to do that. People want to see it and it gets him excited too!
Back to the skate side. When’s Cheap Perfume coming out?
The video is done actually. We’re just waiting for the world to be on the mend. I want to move with momentum of the world, rather than giving people something to watch while they’re taking a shit on the toilet. We’ve put a lot of time and hard work and I don’t want it to just fill the air on a Tuesday. It needs to have some sort of significance. It’ll come out in June or July through Thrasher.
And you got all the music rights cleared?
Music rights were cleared as of last week. We just had to switch one song out. I think over the next month we’re just gonna polish it up, pretty it up, fuck it up. Do what needs to be done.
Johnathan Flechas does that. And a few other friends helping with graphic work and illustration.
He’s been your go-to guy for filming for a while now. How did that relationship blossom?
A friend of ours suggested Flech to film for Former and we took him on a trip to New York about two or three years ago. After a week or so filming and the other silly shit you do out there, it was a no brainer to get him on board. Its really hard to find people who film that aren’t absolutely psychos. Grateful to have had him for all the projects.
Do you ever consider blending surf and skate in the video?
I mean people ask about that and it would be pretty cool to blend the two. I feel if people like Former, they probably already know the association. I think in the future we could do something like that. I’d like to see something new and create something new.
One of my questions was actually which audience is more fickle, skate or surf? And we’d always say skate?
Would have to agree here.
I mean as a skate/surf crossover platform it’s always tough to juggle those core crowds. From a Euro perspective it seems those crowds are slowly merging. But how do you see it in the U.S.? Is that crossover happening?
Yeah I’d say so. Surfers like skating, it’s heavily influenced by skating. I don’t know. If somebody can do it the right way, which is what we’re trying to do. I think you could marry the two, but yes skateboarding is too stubborn and in its ways.
Can you also talk about your friendship with Dion (Agius)? He’s obviously a good friend of ours and we hear your guys recently spent some time hiking in Tasmania together?
Dion and I really became close after Dylan passed. Dion was roommates with Dylan up until his passing and something just clicked. We’ve spent new years the past few years with a bunch of friends in Tasmania and hiked in some pretty remote parts of that island. He’s a very inspiring person to be around and very motivated to create.
That happened at a bar in Sydney a few years ago. Creed Mctaggart, Chippa Wilson, Dion and Kai Neville were there and we made a contract out of a soggy napkin. Shortly after we danced and probably offended some people. Wonder if they are second guessing it? ( laughs).
That welcome clip you shot with Riley (Blakeway) is great. How long did that take you guys? Did you have a visual concept/spot list or did you just decide to cruise the streets and play it by ear?
That took us about a week and half of waiting for that perfect Riley Blakeway light. It was all shot on 16mm with no real concept other than to go out skating at the right time. That’s kind of how we like things to be. A bit more candid or as close as you can get it to candid.
So everyone’s asking. What’s the score with no board company? Can I ask what happened with you and WKND because that welcome clip with that back 180 blew our mind. I mean, we’re still not sure how you did that…?
Probably couldn’t do that again.
But then that whole thing kinda fizzled out.
We just kinda work better as friends rather than being on the same team I guess. We’re still really good friends so I mean, they’ve managed to add 4 or 5 guys to the team since so it’s sweet. I think it was for the better. After that I was gonna do something with Dill and two other guys but that fell through. And then after that I decided I don’t really wanna work with people that don’t have our best interest in mind. I just wanna skate with my friends and do stuff that my friends would want to do, or be a part of. That’s what’s important to me. I dunno. I feel like I’ve spoke to every board company and everyone’s like, “you gotta start something!”. And I’m like, “I don’t wanna start something” (laughs).
Do you ever regret leaving Habitat all those years ago?
No……. I don’t. I guess it kinda just spiralled after the shoes. The shoes kinda made things messy over there. It was a different time. I also had other options and seeing what that could look like was kinda exciting. Being able to do something new. I mean doing something new anytime, I’m probably going to lean towards that. You gotta be excited about what you’re doing. You don’t wanna lead a monotonous career and fade out. You always wanna reinvent yourself in some way I think.
Since you mentioned shoes? You’re still not officially on Vans?
No I get some of the perks like travel which helps out a lot, but no pen to paper.
Yeah we’re actually texting right now. It’s actually doing really well. I don’t know what happened but something changed.
Yeah we like him!
He’s the best. It’s nice to speak to a skateboarder that’s quite aware of the real world.
Right! Oddly enough I feel like everybody on the team is aware, which seems weird to have that in a group. I don’t even know the extension of the team but everybody that I’ve met that Aaron’s put on overseas seems really sweet.
Talking of the real world. How’s it going over there? We’ve seen some troubling stuff with regards to what’s happening in California/U.S. with regards to anti lockdown protests.
Right! It’s like holy shit! Where’ve you been? Not that we missed you but we expected you!
It’s so gnarly!
Yeah there’s a lot of buffoonery going on, especially down south in Huntington, which I guess is to be expected. Just the whole “my body, my choice”. Now that’s their angle with not wearing masks. Not taking precautions. Not being considerate of anything going on. You go down there and it’s like nothing ever happened.
Moving on. Quick-fire questions. Best thing about running Former?
It’s really nice to be close to the product you are selling. I feel it’s now a part of everyone involved and our skin is in the game. It also gives me another excuse to wake up early and feel like I’m applied to something other than just skating.
Worst thing about running Former?
Trying to guess what your friends like because they don’t answer emails (laughs)
Next trip you’re going on as soon a border restrictions are lifted?
It’s tough to tell when those will be lifted, but I think a very extensive Europe trip and Japan is on the horizon. I want to just surf and skate for months.
Favourite skate video?
Favourite surf video?
Shit favourite surf video……….
And don’t say Endless Summer.
Na I’m good on that. I wouldn’t say there’s a favourite but I like what the Rage guys are doing. I like Ozzie Wright too. But anything the Rage guys are doing I support. I think that’s one of the best teams in surfing.
What skate part of yours are you most proud of?
Maybe the one coming up. I’m kinda excited about that one.
Ok apart from that one. If you had to choose one of your previous parts and why?
I guess that HUF shoe part. I got to film with Dylan during that whole project and it felt like one of the more well rounded parts. Mainly the locations as well.
Who chose the David Lynch song in your HUF 002 part?
He still has so many other songs that are useable and it’s actually somehow surprisingly easy to get his music.
Yeah! Joe Castrucci talks those people a lot because he does the Twin Peaks collaborations at Habitat and he’s really open to you using anything except for his face. That’s it.
What about a David Lynch x Former collab? Or get Lynch to direct a Former ad?
That’s a really good idea.
Favourite Lynch film?
(laughs) Fuck………..’Blue Velvet’ is great. Maybe ‘Blue Velvet’. ‘Eraserhead’ is good.
I rewatched Wild at Heart recently and forgot how good Willem Dafoe’s teeth are in that.
Yeah ‘Wild at Heart‘ too. Fuck I need to revisit that one. Did you watch that Lighthouse movie?
No! Not yet!
Yeah you gotta watch it. Subtitles too.
Subtitles? But you forget I’m half British Austyn, I understand that accent.
Yeah but there’s some pirate speak, I don’t know what it is.
3 albums you can’t live without in quarantine?
Err…..have you checked out the Radiohead public library?
On their website they built their own public library where you can get your own public Radiohead library card. Their whole catalogue. Live performances. Demos that nobody’s ever heard. It’s all free.
So yeah, I would go…..’Hail To The Thief’ (2003) by Radiohead. Spiritualized’s last record ‘In Nothing Hurt’ (2018). And…..I’ve been listening to Chet Baker non stop. I don’t remember what record but I’ve been listening to a lot of Chet Baker. It’s kinda got me through this whole thing.
Ok, what happened to Vaude (Austyn’s roommates old band).
Oh shit! Well, we moved out of that house. Mike’s still playing music. I mean he can do whatever he wants, he’s really talented. I dunno what happened. He got into different music and we kinda just shifted. Time. Time happened in between (laughs). We just stopped practicing since we don’t live in that house anymore. And then that thing got torn down because the city found out about it.
Have you had the chance to write any music for yourself? A new Part Friend EP perhaps?
I’ve put out two solo albums over the past few years under just my name. The goal is to try to put out something every year now. This will be a hard year to do that, but thats the plan.
If you could have any skater on Former, who would it be? Regardless of their current sponsor and/or budgets.
Any time period or current skater?
Let’s do current.
Trying to think of someone would be fun to travel with……….see this is why no one else is on the team because it’s taking this long to answer. Maybe Peter Smolik.
What about Danny Garcia?
I’d put on Danny on. I mean he’s already on. Whenever he’s around he’s on.
What is Danny doing? He’s such an enigma. That guy has such an aura.
I know, it’s like this cat like thing. He’s recording music right now.
Under Reverend Baron?
He’s probably on a walk or writing something. That’s what he’s doing, guaranteed. He’s recording another album right now. He got signed to this label in Ohio. The same as Kevin Mor…..no wait not Kevin Morby, Michael Nau. I don’t know if you know Michael Nau?
Love Michael Nau! Mow is one of my favourite albums.
Yeah he just put out a new record, did you listen to it?
No! But I will now!
Yeah it’s on Bandcamp. Figure out a way to download it or give him 9 bucks.
What do you miss most since quarantine happened?
Eye contact probably. Its pretty wild when you look at people and they turn away in disgust. Its a really sad thing to feel. Looking forward to seeing facial expressions instead of masks.
How has it changed you as a person?
I’ve done some volunteer work throughout this whole thing and that really put life into perspective. It’s a new thing, but it felt weird fundraising for foundations without actually being a part of it. In the first few weeks of quarantine, I was looking at what people were doing and really got disgusted with how people were advertising doing nothing during this time. So i guess I’ve become more proactive with helping people.
What’s next for you and Former?
The goal is to get this video out and start polishing up our spring 21 collection. The usual programming (laughs).
Thanks for your continued support and excited to see what Wasted Talented produces for our community.
Former is now available on Wasted Talent both in-store and online here.