Welcome back to our Place Presents series, this one focuses on Ruben Spelta, Soy Panday & Vivien Feil. The latter is not the most interviewed person out in skateboarding today, but as with many OG’s, he does have a lot of opinions and reasons why he does what he does. So we chose to talk to him and at 40 years of age and with 4 kids! It is amazing that he even finds time to skate nowadays. With that said, you could argue that the best is yet to come because during this interview we had the pleasure of finding out he isn’t done yet. To say the least! In my own personal experience with age comes a certain knowledge, at the start, you just do the tricks you can do on the obstacles in front of you but as you grow you start to think about what to do and what not to do. Much of this interview is an in-depth look into Vivien’s motivations and choices in skateboarding. We thoroughly enjoyed talking to him and we hope you enjoy reading about it. “On y va!”
Interview by Roland Hoogwater.
Photo by Clement Harpillard.
I just want to ask you one simple thing. How old are you now, Vivien?
Forty years old.
So how do you stay fit at forty and still do those tricks? I asked Günez the same because of the level you guys still have and I myself am thirty-five. It’s not that of a crazy gap but thirty-five to forty is still a gap. I just want to know how you guys do it. It’s not easy because the body will hurt more and more.
I think skating is more difficult now because I have kids. I have so many kids. I have four kids.
I have four boys. I got twin boys in the end so now I got tired a little bit but I feel like now are the last years where I still can have a level. I’m crazy motivated and I’m filming a full part.
You are filming a full part?
Yeah, for like a year now because I feel like I won’t be able to skate like that anymore soon. I had many parts and many projects but they were always spread out. It was like “Let me take this stuff and put it into the Static video”. Then the Static video is pushed back and I took half of the stuff and put it into the Magenta promo. Sometimes I don’t skate for a long time because I got kids and other shit going on. Then I look back and in the end, you want to contribute to the culture as a skateboarder. Whether you are writing an article, making a brand, skating, or supporting people. I feel like the clock is ticking. If you want to contribute with your skating you have to make a part. That’s how you culturally express yourself and I never really put everything into a part because I was always busy with other shit so I feel like it’s the last shot.
So this is actually you putting everything into doing one more part?
Yeah, everything in the sense of like “Ok, I think of the spots, I think of what I want to show, I think of the tricks I want to show, I want to pay more attention to what I dress like because I usually don’t. I really want to do it (laughs). I told my girlfriend if I don’t do it and I think I never really did that part, I will feel really sad because it’s a big chunk of my life. That culture you know? I really need to do that.
I like that and I feel like you want to have that one defining part that shows your skateboarding at this time. No?
Yeah, the chance to do it… It’s not about getting sponsored at the age of forty. I just wanna contribute something. Where you like “I did my best”. Like a painting. You did all those paintings which came out and they were all a bit rushed. I wanna make a good painting, you know? I want to do this painting. So obviously I could move on and not do the effort. A very different mentality than Hugo Maillard. Probably the opposite (laughs).
(Laughs) But he is still a bit younger so his time might come when he feels the same.
Yeah, I think I was reading an interview with Gauthier Rouger and he started to have the same feeling. Like two or three years ago he was wasting too much time and then it was done. You need to I don’t know. For yourself to feel good. You know you can do it. Do something good. You know what you can do. You just gotta fucking do it (laughs).
“It took him 6-months to do a boardslide, that fucking loser (laughs), I think I am going to win for sure.”Vivien about who will be skating the longest, Soy or him.
True that’s fair. I like that. I’m excited about that because Daniel and I were wondering how you still manage to stay so good at this age. Some people have good genes. For example Michi Mackrodt. He can still do it at I think now forty-one and maybe Jan Kliewer too. He has it.
Michi is amazing and Jan Kliewer is my favorite German skater ever. His style is amazing. What is funny is that did you know that Michi, Jan, Soy, and I used to go on trips together all the time in the early 2000s.
Makes a lot of sense because it’s kind of the same energy that you guys have. Although Michi has more energy than all of them combined probably but it still makes sense.
Yeah, we wanted to do trips and things on our own. We were also super stressed because of the industry and what people expected from us. I think it’s the same for Michi or Jan, we skate for ourselves also. Do you know what I mean? I’m not saying other people don’t but really I don’t give a shit. I know what I like in skating and I know what I don’t like in skating. If nobody is around that even knows this shit it doesn’t matter to me (laughs).
That’s really nice. Also, I wanted to say that Magenta has been looking really good lately with the addition of some younger riders. The company is looking good.
Yes, thank you.
I feel like one of the last videos you guys put out with Ruben and his friends was a really nice project. Magenta seems to have found its own place in skateboarding and it had a big impact, it influenced the skating of a lot of people.
Thank you! It was kinda the idea but who knows how it will continue. The message we have is not a popular one and it’s not one that is trendy right now. Do you know what I mean? When we do collaborations with bigger brands they are always like ” You don’t really fit our design to work with us”. We’re not fit to have that Supreme look that is trendy now. So I don’t know for how long people will be interested in it but I don’t really care. I mean I do care (laughs).
I mean with the boom of boards and stuff last year that could have been quite good for you because at that point…
Yeah, yeah, yeah it was really good but for me, there is a difference between the entire market that wants more skateboards or the market that wants you. They wanted any skateboards and that may have nothing to do with your brand. That was just the market. It’s not this that separates you from others. Maybe we sold more boards too because we have better setups and we are an older brand. I have good relationships with the guys so I can get the product. It’s just because we have the product. It’s great that we had a year like that and it’s great that the industry had a year like that but it’s not a testimony to our work at all.
True, true. But that money could be invested in bringing people your message.
For sure, but we are not going to change, I think Magenta has its limits and if you want to grow beyond a certain point you have to use the brand as a tool. We don’t do things that we don’t like so in that sense there is a limit to Magenta. It represents what we represent, I don’t think we physically could go in a different direction.
Let’s go take a step back to when you started skating did you feel like getting paid was an option?
It really was not on my mind, I was selling products, I was on eBay hustling, writing articles for magazines, etc… because I didn’t want to be dependent on someone giving me a cheque, and I felt like I needed to be culturally involved.
Skateboarding was different too back then, I remember the first sponsor that told me they wanted to pay me… I laughed in their face, it was like a joke to me. Someone is going to pay you to skate that was like a surreal idea to me.
The social status of skaters today has changed and some of them, themselves are a brand.
That is true, I remember back in the days, I had a talk with the Blobys in like the late 2000s and they were coming up. The topic was school, and they informed me that being a skater at school people looked up to them because they were skaters. That is so different from my experience, I was a pariah. The type of people and the interactions you have are way different now.
In a way that is good, I don’t miss getting spat on or fights in the streets, but at the same time, you had to really want it. But I would still prefer the way it is nowadays.
I do miss that sometimes because that can give you energy, independent energy, it makes me feel like my choices are really my choices, you can only feel that if people go against the choices you made. If everyone agrees with what you do, how do you know you aren’t just pleasing other people by doing it? There is a satisfaction to getting that push back. But if you wanted to feel that type of “hate” you can still find it by skating the streets easily (laughs).
“Why am I doing this trick on this spot and not this other one? Because of references that are important to me. If you don’t understand my language, we are not doing the same thing and that is totally fine.”Vivien Feil, 2022.
(laughs) True, so, serious question, who is going to be skating longer, Soy or you?
Well, Soy has ankle problems, he got surgery in November, and the operation didn’t go as well as hoped but he sent me a skate clip yesterday. It took him 6-months to do a boardslide, that fucking loser (laughs), I think I am going to win for sure. Still, he is 5-years older than me, so who knows, he is like 45.
Will you be skating at this level though, if Soy doesn’t push you?
I like skating as a family unit, when my little brother stopped skating it really made me want to skate less. So, if Soy stopped, I think it would influence me to skate less, so yeah.
Soy is a tough guy though, he is getting another operation on his other foot just so he can continue to skate, that is the only reason, his ankles are done! He doesn’t even want the operation to walk! He just wants to skate again. Soy loves skating! I never needed to push Soy to skate, if he physically can skate he will skate.
I have seen him with his crew in Paris, Alexey Jamet, and Leo Spartacus, good vibes. By the way, will you have any hometown clips from Strassbourg in your upcoming part?
Yes, I have two filmers for this project, so at least 15, to 20 clips in Strassbourg. I love the history here, the architecture is older here than in a lot of other parts of France. Architecture inspires me a lot, if I am not skating or doing family stuff, I go around and take pictures of buildings, look at the types of stones they used, etc, it is like looking for spots. I think that “looking” will never go away, even if I can’t skate anymore. To me that is part of our culture, if you know spots I don’t know I will give you a lot more respect. As a skater, I feel like having a relationship with the city is very important, maybe even more important than doing good tricks.
Some people just want to go to the skatepark and practice tricks instead of searching the streets and interacting with the city they live in. They can do all kinds of stuff on a skateboard but to me, those people are not on my radar.
Some people just want the “pin”, which could also be a generational thing.
True, but to me, there are cultural references to everything I do, wear, and relate to in skating. Moving on your board a certain way is a language to me. Why am I doing this trick on this spot and not this one? Because of references that are important to me. If you don’t understand my language, we are not doing the same thing and that is totally fine.
Connected to that, tell me about your style of Body-Varials, they weren’t always in your arsenal.
I figured them out again in 2014 in Bordeaux during a night session. I used to do them back in the day but I felt I was doing them weird, a little late. The key to my version is actually my background as a youth in Martial Arts, Taekwondo to be exact. The Body-Varial, the way I do them is like a stance switch in Taekwondo, changing the lead foot, you practice that a lot, so that is the basis of how I do the trick, you have to do it only changing the feet not the whole body, you keep looking forward. My favorite way to execute them is when you almost don’t see the feet move and you fuck people’s minds up a bit. My favorite one I have done is in the “Just Cruise” video I do a line with an Ollie over a trash can and then a really quick Ollie Body Varial over another trash can.
But why don’t you do it backside?
It is because we don’t switch that way in Taekwondo (proceeds to show me in real-time)… Wait… actually, you can! I will do one for my new part! But in Martial Arts, the goal is to never have your back to your opponent so that might be part of it. I did a variant, it is like a Backside Shifty Ollie but the board continues to turn, kinda like a Late Shove It. There are a lot of tricks that look better if you combine tricks like that. I will try to do all the variations in my new part.
It is great to hear you are still learning, but are there tricks you can’t do anymore?
Yes, some of the more tech stuff like Switch Bigspin Tailslide, that used to be possible but now less so. But a good part is not only based on the tricks you do but also on the ones you don’t do. People need to be able to tell you made choices, sometimes we forget that.
Will there be guest tricks or is it just you?
I don’t do solo parts, I am not comfortable with it, which is why it is taking a bit longer. It is going to be mostly together with Glenn Fox & Jeremy Jones from the UK who is AMAZING! Ruben Spelta is coming to Bordeaux as well. In the end, it all will amount to JUST CRUISE 2 which will drop early next year, featuring the whole squad skating in France.
Because you said skating is a family thing, will your brother contribute a trick?
Probably not, he is into fixing old cars and shit (laughs), but maybe he should, he could dust off his board and do one thing for my part. The last time he did like a Fakie Tre Flip, good idea, I will push him to get one thing!
Last question, how did the MAGENTAPES happen?
It started during the pandemic, we couldn’t do the trips we wanted to do and our team is worldwide so we decided to motivate people to skate their local spots and film with a VX filmer. Normally we go somewhere together and the projects grow from there but this one is basically people sending in the tapes to us from all over the world. In the end, we ended up with an 18-minute video and the parts are dropping all over the place now.
Sick! I think that’s it Vivien, thank you for doing this with us!
Thank you, Roland.
We have more coming next week, so stay tuned!