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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not a Cliché anymore: a full blown movie...

Jeremie Daclin interview by Xavier Lannes, November 2009.

The reason I asked Jeremie Daclin, the boss of Cliché Skateboards, to give me an interview for my blog was because I though we had a lot in common. Obviously, we were both pro (or say, sponsored) by skate brands, Death Box and Vans shoes for Jeremie, Banzai and Amaya boards and Palladium & Pony shoes for me. We were both making so little money out of our pro status that it’s even a shame trying to mention it. We both extensively toured Europe. We both toured Spain in hectic conditions, Jeremie with his own brand Cliché and I toured with Amaya... Jeremie toured Spain on his “Gypsy Tour”, and I toured with the “Vuelta”. My days ended in Night Clubs where we could meet artistic chicks whose papi were waiting outside with their escopetas. Both tours were done in appalling conditions. Jeremie had to sleep in destroyed houses and I was in Spain just after Franco died and left the country bloodless but hungry for openness and change. Jeremie filmed his venture in videos, that are available in his website and Fuel TV and I took 3 lost still pictures to prove that I was really there. Things have changed in Spain and it is now a vibrant country, often compared with the Asian Tigers at the economic level.

And finally, both Jeremie and I had a skate shop and a distribution company in France…

Then, as I prepared the questions for the interview, I realized that the similarities between us two ended there. I can even date it: around 1997.
First of all, he is still pro after all these years, then he started Cliché a couple of years after I bailed out of skateboarding business, not out of boredom, but out of despair because of poor margins, because of too many long hour at the shop desperately sending mail orders to try to make up sales and because of downtrodden business cycles. I went to Mexico for the next 5 years or so and sold gourmet food to Mexican yuppies and disappeared from the skate scene.

In the meantime, Jeremie went from underpaid skater to being the boss of one of the most respected skateboard brand worldwide. I guess he woke up one day with the right vision that small companies can eventually grow big and become fat world industries: having one of Rocco’s designers and editor of Big Brother to create a limited edition board for you is somehow mind blogging and show that to some extent parallels can be drawed. Jeremie’s passage with Death Box at the end of the 80’s is a revealing fact of the complexity of the next generation of French skaters: between Bruno Rouland, Jeremie Daclin and Bastien Salabanzi, Death Box and Flip probably had the best available French skaters. Then, amid Trauma and Logo, Jeremie launched Cliché. The next thing you know he managed to pull Lyon, his hometown, out of an everlasting rain, ennui and bleakness and into one of the most thriving skate scene. So thriving that even the Gonz went there to spend some time at Jeremie's skateshop. Jeremie managed to assemble a team of pros from all over the world: France, Spain, Australia, Germany and the US. Not bad for a Froggy freedom fries and stinky cheese eater. He managed to redesign the perception of skate in France and proved that French too can do it. Today, that once small skateboard brand has videos on all major skateboard websites and on Fuel TV, and thanks to a new worldwide distribution is ready to take on the world…

Among the topics of discussion are the story of “Les Bassins”, big money, cops vs skaters, the new book Résumé, and of course, Cliché! I called Jeremie from L.A. but because of the jet lag, when he was available, it was only 6:00 am for me. I guess that’s what you call determination.

The interview was first done in French and then translated into English. For the “purists” or the “francophones” you can find the entire text of the French version here.

Hi Jeremie, this is Xavier, how are you doing?
Not bad, and you?

I’m great thank you.
Isn’t it too early for you?

I wake up at 6pm every day so…
You are used to it…

Yeah, I’m used to it. Man, thanks for the interview. When did you start skateboarding?
Might be in 87 or 88

During the skate & destroy period?
Oh yeah, right on … There was not a lot, it was demoralizing, there was very few brands, Powell was still filming in 16mm.

But, when you started skateboarding, Vision was at its climax?
About that…

So, you remember when Vision et Airwalk went broke?
You got it. I lived all that! That was a hell of a period. Then came World Indutsries, big trousers and small wheels. They killed the skateboarding we used to know…

You quickly became very good and you worked with V7.
I started working with V7 when he imported New Deal and World Industries. I was his first rider for Tracker and Blockhead. That’s thanks to him that I had contacts in the US with Tracker and Blockhead.

He was still working from Choisy?Yes, something like that... V7 was also Team Manager of Vans because he was riding for Vans and he was giving me Vans shoes… Well, that was one pair of shoes every two months and that was a big deal at that time

You were making big bucks?
No. I never made any money, even when I was pro with Blockhead. Even when I was pro for Death Box they never gave me a cent.

That’s why you decided to start your own brand?
Yes. That’s why I decided to start Cliché because I was experienced with American brands like Blockhead, Death Box. There was also JB Gillet who was living in Lyon, my hometown and he was sponsored by World Industries. He was going often to the states and so he was making much more money than me. I though that, for the European skaters to make money, it was necessary to create a European industry and not to depend upon the Americans. I thought “I have to create my own company”.

How did you start?
Before Cliché, I already had a skate shop at Lyon and I was concient of the reality of the business, the way the business was managed. Thanks to the shop, I was working with V7 in France. I was also sourcing products in Switzerland and everywhere. I had a signature board with Brooklyn Board, who was a brand from New York and we were selling that in the US and in France and it showed me the impact of an American brand with a French name on it. We were selling hundreds of it. A hundred boards was the minimum production. So I though, if I can sell the minimum production under my name, I am going to do it myself. Then, I hired 3 pros. I was giving them 10 Francs per board, and they were making $1000 Francs every time I was running the minimum, et voila!

You were still skating?
Of course, I was still pro under my own brand, but I was also the Team manager and I was in charge of everything. That was hard, because I was the first one to wake up; I had to run the show, wake up the kids, … Last to sleep. I do everything for the team and so I only skate when I have spare time. I skate more when I am alone than on tour with the team…

In your email, you tell me that you are on Holydays. Do you skate during holydays?
I take my wife and kid and I do something else.

So, no skate during Holydays?
Are you kidding me? The skate is part of me, even my son, who is 3 years old is skating. I take him with me to secret skate spots and we have an awesome time. I skate all the time…

What is the state of Skateboard in France?
We have seasonality problems. Winter stops everything. Compared to California we are doomed. A long time ago, skateboard was outcast in France but now, skaters are part of the environment. The great thing about Europe is that cities are more compact and sidewalks are much more practicable than in the US, so it helps a lot to practice skate. There is an expression that was coined some time ago and which is called “soft trek”. A “soft trek” includes the bicycle, the scooter, the long board, the roller blade, the skateboard. It’s a green way to shuffle in congested cities effortlessly. Skate is seen as very ecological and people and politicians love it. Where you live in L.A. you can’t go to work on a skateboard because of the distances.

Here, in the US, we have a big problem with the cops …In France, cops are not really a problem for skateboarders. More and more people are skating sidewalks. More and more people use skateboards in the cities just to go from one place to another. Skate has become a “phenoneme de socitete” and Downtown cities are now car free and set aside only for pedestrians, so skateboarders can mingles in downtown and they are really part of cities’ big picture.

Wait a minute; you are saying that, in France, skaters can use their skate on the street? Is that legal?
Yes, yes, yes. More and more people ride on the street!

Like Thrasher said: Vert is dead! ...for ever?
What has changed with skateboarding is that now it has become all inclusive. Before, you had a street skater and that guy was only doing street stuff and no curves. Some people would only do handrails, some others were specialized only in steps but now the kids are doing all at once. They have mastered the steps, they are the kings of handrails and they curve like crazy. They are just gnarly at a very high level, very technical, but very comprehensive at the same time. They can do all at once and that trend is growing, so that’s the reason why vert is definitely not dead because, now, the kids, they want to do it all. In my opinion, nowadays a skater that is only riding street stuff or vert, I don’t see him going very far. More and more kids want to do vertical riding. You see, now a Kevin Staab could not exist anymore. Take Rune Glifberg, that guy shreds in pools, he skate on mega-ramp on the rail...

Vert means heavy infrastructure and big investments. Are European Cities willing to invest that kind of money?
There are more and more skateparks in France. And the upside is that they are all made with concrete, so that means that it’s more everlasting. Skateparks cost a lot of money to build so before your torn it down you thinks twice about it.

Why is Cliché still at Lyon, and not in a big city like Marseilles or Paris?
Because Lyon is my hometown! It’s very central. It is big enough, but not that big. There is not a lot of traffic, and you can skate everywhere on sidewalk on your way to work. Lyon has an international airport, a bullet train station. Lyon is in between a big city and a small town.

How many pros are riding Cliché boards?
Lucas Puig, who also rides for Lakai, JB Gillet who… The Australian Andrew Brophy … The Spanish Javier Mendizabal who is excellent in curves and pools, Ricardo Fonseca, Joey Brezinski, You have to go to the Cliché web site to see them all in action. Also, there is an awesome feature on the web site. That’s called the Gypsy tour. We did that for Fuel TV. It is like a go-west tour where we go into the unknown. We have a 10 euro budget per day, we sleep outside…

I saw pictures were you squat in shacks, ruins, destroyed houses in Spain… That is just plain awesome! How did you get the idea to do that?

We did that to counter big business and bigwigs that land in Europe with too much bucks. They go to fancy hotels and shit. So we said bluntly we have to do the contrary. So the idea is that we have no goal, we don’t plan in advance, we don’t know where we are going next and according to the weather or to people we meet, we move. Go see that on the website. It has been filmed and edited like a reality show. We show the collaterals of a skate tour, the excitement, the psychology, the problems…

You only did one tour like this?
No. We did it three times. The first two have already been edited and broadcast. Every time we invited the
We are now editing the third tour that will be released in January on Fuel TV.

Les Bassins

I remember one of your old pictures at night in “Les Bassins” with a glowing Eiffel Tower in the background. I saw a very similar picture of Pierre Andre Senizergues. Did you skate with him?
Yes, 15 years ago, I skated with him and with Thrash Max, V7, Bruno Rouland, Rakike, all the guys from Bourges.

For the Parisians, “Les Bassins” was an amazing experience and even 20 years after every body remembers that elusive spot..
The thing is that in 88, there was a French championship that was organized at « Le Trocadero » and I went there from Lyon to participate. I was 16 if I remember. I took the bullet train. That was the first time I came to Paris. I had an old tee shirt and a sleeping bag. I told myself: “ I will sleep in « Les Bassins », and the next day I will go to the contest”. So, I arrive that day at “Les Bassins” and there are skaters everywhere, jumping like fleas… But, little by little, very late at night, at almost midnight, everybody’s leaving and the last one to leave is Thrash Max. We chat and he asks me why I am still here and what am I going to do next. I explain that I plan to go to the contest the next day but that tonight, I will sleep in « Les Bassins ». He tells me « Are you crazy or what? ». « Come with me, you can sleep on the couch!” And that is how I met Trash Max. The day after, Trash Max was the big winner of the contest. After that, I met Rakike, Tramber, etc… We became friends, we were going to Paris to skate with them, and they would come to Lyon to skate with us.

Actually, the “Les Bassins sesh” was an amazing skateboarding event: during about 6 months, set at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, close to “Le Trocadero”, the cradle of skateboarding in France, a series of small pools were emptied to clean them from the dirty deposit accumulated during decades. Something that happens only twice in a lifetime, and only once in the life of a skater. At a time when all French skateparks had been torn down, the best skaters from all over France gathered to this amazing Mecca to celebrate the event. It was “the” place to be. There was Denis, Thrash max, Tramber, Rakike, Joel Boisgontier, Jérome, Thiasma, P'tit gars, Bob, La gazelle, Mannix, Le Jardinier, Bamba. And that’s not all: Les Bassins was also a stop-over for a flock of international pros en route to the infamous “Open d’Avon”: Natas Kaupas, Danny Way, Cab, Lester Kasai, Mark Gonzalez… There is even a movie filmed by Spike Jonze, taken from the extras of “The Man Who Souled The World” DVD whith the original Blind team: Jason Lee, Danny Way, Mark Gonzales. BTW you really asked the Gonz to design a board for Cliché? How about that?
In 96, Gonz came to Lyon and stayed there for one year because his girlfriend was studying at Lyon. So, picture that: one day we skate on the street and we see Gonz on his board riding like a pirate! That was mind boggling! That was when I still had the skate shop. And after that he was coming often to my shop. We spent a lot of time together. We use to skate together, we went to Marseilles together. We moved everywhere. So, for the 10 years of Cliché, I called him and said “You have to design a board for us”. And because he had come back a couple of times to see us and we went to the museum of the “Freres Lumieres”, the brothers who invented cinema, he designed a series of board with the “Freres Lumieres” theme.

Is it a limited edition?
Was a limited edition. This board is not available anymore...

There is a big market for skateboard vintage, do you think that it’s a board that will cost $10,000 in 10 years.
Absolutely not! That board is already worth $10,000.

How about the Transworld award? Cliché is the Best Team?
This time, the skaters themselves voted for us. Transworld sent some listings with all brands to all the team managers worldwide. The team managers forwarded that to their riders and the riders voted. Two weeks before the ceremony, we received the nomination. We though, “We’re not gonna go, we can’t win. It’s not worth buying plane tickets from France just to show up at the ceremony”. But Transworld knew that, for whatever reason, we would not come. So they picked up the telephone and they said they would never do it, but that because we were the winners they had to call us and we had to go. And that’s how we went to L.A.

All the team?
No, just 3-4 riders. We took advantage to do a photo shoot with Reda.

Are you coming often to the states?
No, we don’t have the opportunity, but we try to go twice a year.

You go to California?
Yes, California and New York too. We go on a tour we do demos…

You were talking about seasonality and actually, there is a big difference between Europe and California where we can skate 24-7-365. Do you think it’s easier to be a good skater just by living in California?
Hell yes. No problem, of course.

So, Californians will always be ahead of the game? Is the weather really a pain in Europe?
You see, there are lots of different countries in Europe. If you take Spain, for example, and especially Barcelona, the weather there is very similar to the California weather and a lot of European pros are living there, so, for them they have nothing to envy to California. We are much more in the north. We got rain, we got snow. But that’s what’s nice about it. It gives us motivation and stamina. When you think that you only have 4 months with cool weather, you have to go for it, get rad and do in 4 months what the others do in 12 months. And you see, that’s the kind of motivation that pushes us more to the edge

Are you Eurocentric?
It’s very positive to claim and respect what you belong to. You have to keep and save your uniqueness. Take Zoo York! They brought to the skate something very different, the New York State of Mind. Skate is not only palm trees, sun and sand. As for us, we are coming from Europe and we are willing to keep this difference and we are willing to bring something else to skateboarding.

Dwindle. That was last summer big news!
Yeah, that’s a big deal, huge! In the way that at distribution level it’s a win-win deal because Dwindle has the best skateboard distribution worldwide. They are present in all the shops. Regarding the marketing and the team, we will stay in Europe and in Lyon. For the team, nothing will change. Dwindle is so huge worldwide…

Who will distribute Cliché in Europe?
That’s Dwindle! For example, before, in France we were selling directly to the shops and now, V7 will distribute Cliché. Before, we had to do it all, the buying, the warehousing, the distribution, the shipping. And now, we will just do the creation.

You will have free time?
Definitely, It will free us time. That way, we will focus on important things like the team, the videos, the products and now we are at the same level as Enjoi, Almost, Darkstar, Blind…

When will we be able to find Cliché boards in the US skate shops?
Right now, it’s immediate. Go to any skate shop that has Almost, Enjoi and they should have Cliché.

How about mass marketing? Cliché is not very well know outside a circle of connoisseurs and not all kids in the US know about Cliché?
We already have a couple of riders in the US. Joey Brezinski who lives at Venice beach, Andrew Brophy who is Australian but who lives at Hollywood. You see, we have a couple of pros in the US. On top of that, we will go to the US and tour. We are preparing something in the US for January. We will do a lot of videos and post them on the internet… On our website…

Who got the idea for Résumé?
It’s been a long time since we wanted to do it. I always had excellent contacts with photographers and the book was a very protracted project because when we stared we had regular paper pictures or negatives so, we had to find the negatives, the originals, print them again, scan them. That was very long and cumbersome project.

Is it written in French?
No, it’s written in English

Dwindle has the distribution?
There you go. That’s Mackenzie Eisenhour who writes for Transworld who wrote the texts for us...

He was with you during all those tours and demos?
We did the book thanks to interviews that he made with the riders, with me. Since he is French-Americain that’s kinda help. He has followed Cliché history and progression for a very long time. He knows Cliché since the beginning; he knows all of us since the beginning. And the book will be available for Xmas.

What’s the deal with Sean Cliver ?
We have this board with Sean Cliver who is a great artist that has already designed lots of boards and wrote several books. This board has been done using an old screen print technique. That’s very important because, nowadays, nobody is using that technique. All is done in China. So the board has the look and the feel of vintage boards. The design is top notch. You have to see it.

Well all of this is simply awesome, Sean Cliver is a guy that has been present in the business for the past 25 years, he has designed boards for the greatest skate companies on earth and the fact that he accepted to design a board for Cliché proves that you are part of the best skate brands and that you are here for the long run. Man, you are working with La Crème de la Crème : Gonz, Cliver… That proves that skate is an international language, it’s a global phenomenon that goes beyond borders. On top of that, you managed to set up an all international team with skaters from Spain, France, Germany, Australia, and the United States, what else? So the only thing that I can say is bravo and encore!
Thanks a lot !

No, I am the one that has to say thanks. And thank you for the interview.
You are welcome, my pleasure!

BTW, when you come to Los Angeles, call me…
Of course, we will probably go in January…

…and you could teach me a couple of tricks because I really need a complete overhaul. I need a good teacher… Laughs…
Deal! Bye and have a good day.

About Cliché’s videos: One of Cliché's best video, Clé, is now available for free download on the Cliché site. Cliché has been known to consistently put out quality videos and Clé is definitely no exception. After you're done soaking in Clé, go to Cliché's brand new video archive page where you can watch every video the French brand has ever put out. Good stuff. The Gypsy Tour is the kind of skate tour that most skaters can relate to. Cliché has put the full Gypsy Tour Two video online here.

About Dwindle : Dwindle Distribution, based in El Segundo, CA, is the largest skateboard manufacturing company and distributor. It is owned by Globe International Limited. It serves seven skate companies: Almost, Enjoi, Speed Demons, Tensor Trucks, Blind, Cliche, and Darkstar Skateboards. Dwindle previously distributed World Industries until it was sold to i.e. Distribution on June 26, 2007. Bod Boyle is the current president of Dwindle Distribution. Dwindle has also served now defunct companies such as A-team, Deca, and City Stars.

About Sean Cliver: Sean Cliver is one of, if not, the most famous skateboard designer ever. He has single handedly created some of the most memorable graphics of all time first at Powel and then during his reign at the original World Industries camp in the early 90's. Having just released his second book on skateboard graphics, The Disposable Skateboard Bible, Cliver has stepped up to embark on a unique board project with Cliché. They both have released a limited edition board adhering to the same extinct graphic-producing methods of the 90's: Instead of using the now industry standard heat transfers, this board was made using color separations, masking film and an old school screen printing station. The result is a board that has the same look and feel as some of the first World Industries, Blind, 101, etc. classics from back in the day. Only 300 of these boards were made. Each hand numbered and laser engraved with the boards dimensions...8 X 32.

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posted by Xavier Lannes @ Thursday, November 12, 2009 


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