This post is long overdue, especially considering that the video has been live for a couple of weeks. That said, I finally finished the second installment of the "Wood + Wires" series. This time I profiled Bottlehead Corp, a company that makes tube amp kits. This posed a unique challenge; how do I successfully profile a company whose product is a box of parts? The only thing that seemed to make sense was to show a kit being assembled, starting with Bottlehead packing a box then transitioning to "someone" putting the kit together. The more I thought about it the more it became apparent that I would have to build a kit myself. I am not especially fond of being on camera, that was never the point of MKHmfg. I have long criticized how YouTube has become "me roll”, people producing content simply to be on camera. I was reluctant, both because I am not fond of being on camera and because I have very limited experience doing any sort of electrical work. I chose the Reduction phono pre-amp for the build, simply because I wanted to upgrade my personal solid-state amp to a tube amp (the finished product sounds amazing... but I am getting ahead of myself). I wasn't excited by the idea of having to spend hours editing video of myself.
Luckily working with Dan and Eileen Schmalle of Bottlehead was remarkably easy. I spent two days at their facility on Bainbridge Island. They were very accommodating, and Dan was a very easy interview. I ended up with over an hour of usable interview footage. I shot with both my Panasonic GH4 and GH5. I also moved both cameras a little bit mid interview and then proceeded to revisit a couple of questions. This way I had 4 angles on some of Dan's key answers. For B roll I shot Eileen compiling and boxing my kit. Dan was a little more difficult, I didn't get a whole lot of video of him working. I had to be creative to fill in the gaps
Using a slower, more deliberate process made for better shots, but took a very long time. A kit that would typically take a builder a few days to a week to complete took me three or four weeks, with me shooting an hour or two every night or two after work. Eventually I rented a Rhino Evo slider for a weekend and knocked out a ton of the kit. This worked extremely well, as the added movement made for much more interesting shots. Finally, I spent a Saturday lighting my living room for the final set up video. Bonnie (dog) made an unexpected cameo. She is the ultimate "beer hound" she can be seen trying to steal my celebratory beer near the end of the final video. Darlene was also kind enough to help with the camera move of me coming up the stairs.
In the end I made some mistakes with the build. I couldn't get the correct impedance readings on my amp. I turned at first the to the Bottlehead forum, then to Bottlehead tech Paul Birkeland. Paul sorted out all my many mistakes in shockingly little time. Without his help I would have been working on this for much longer.
An old friend then stepped in to provide the last missing piece of the puzzle for this project. I've known Aaron "Coleslaw" Taylor for a very long time. He played guitar and sang as Darlene and I walked down the aisle at our wedding (the Nada Surf song "Blonde on Blonde"), he's a dear friend and an all-around stand up dude. He volunteered to provide music for this project. In total he recorded over 15 unique pieces of music for me to choose from. Without his help this project would not have worked. Music is a huge part of this series, it would make no sense otherwise, and Aaron made it so easy. I can't thank him enough.
After I finished the project Dan approached me for a teaser video to be featured on the Bottlehead web site (below). I was able to cut a 30 second spot for him and now my mug is featured on the front page of www.bottlehead.com. I went from a very reluctant subject of my own video, to the face of kit building somehow. Don't count on this to happen in the future. I plan to plant myself firmly behind the camera from here on.
Very strange side note. So far, I have produced two episodes of "Wood + Wires" and both times the subject of my video moved their operations around the time that I finished the video. Clark Blumenstein moved from Tacoma to Seattle... and now Bottlehead has relocated to Poulsbo. Is this a coincidence or some sort of curse? I guess time will tell
Until next time... oh and by the way...I have no clue what "next time" will entail. If you have an idea for part 3 of this series, please let me know... Anyone making unique audio gear of any kind is welcome. Let me know if you have an idea. Cheers - Ben
I have spent years working towards improving my abilities to create video content. It seems like it's been ages, and at times it seems like I have made little to no progress. Am I treading water as others swim? I still work the crazy TV hours, and I still am not getting paid for most of what I do on the side. It's hard to keep self doubt at bay. It's also a challenge to work a side hustle while working a full time job and having a life. Finding that balance is not easy. Spending 8 hours at work making TV, then finding the motivation to shoot and edit after is a bit much at times. Some times you just have to sleep. Ha.
I watched a video this morning that made me feel slightly better about everything. it's from a travel photographer named Taylor Jackson. It's nice to know that I am not alone in my self doubt, and that others who have already turned their side gig into their main gig still occasionally feel this struggle as well. Ironically this is from a v-log. I usually don't like them. For one, Dr Neil Robison taught me that you should never make yourself the story. It seems like that is all there is anymore, creators who make themselves the story.... I guess it goes with territory. To me it always comes off as shallow and conceited. I really don't care about you when I watch a travel video.. I want to see the place and people not the host. I hate putting myself in my videos, and only do so when there is no other choice. Is film making a lost art? Is it all me me me? I guess that is a question better addressed in another blog post.
Taylor's video was refreshing... I can appreciate his self doubt, I share it. I hope he doesn't mind that I post his work here.
It has been a very long time since I have bothered to write anything here. Let's chalk it up to life shall we? It's been a busy few years, both good and bad. First of all I feel I need to explain why there is no "My Knees Hurt" movie yet. Well to be honest I sort of feel like I was being crushed under the weight of the thing. I am not sure how all the pieces fit together, and the glue I was hoping to use to piece the entire thing together left us, Mark Hubbard. So I need to step back and think it through. Skateboarding is so huge, and even the subject of "older skaters" is a bit much to chew on. I have a ton of great video and interviews and will eventually come back to this....but for now I need to concentrate on some other things... things that I can easily accomplish. Which brings me to "Wood and Wires".
It started when I was looking for something interesting to shoot outside of skateboarding. One day while flipping through the new arrivals bin at Easy Street Records I noticed the speakers mounted in the corners. They were tiny, and pretty, and sounded really nice. Next to them was a sign explaining that they were made in Tacoma by a guy named Clark Blumenstein. Which got me thinking that he might make an interesting story .... so I contacted Clark, we talked it over and decided to shoot a video. I thought that the Arizona band Forest Fallows would be a great compliment to Clark's artistry so I contacted them though my friends at Joyful Noise Recordings and they were gracious enough to agree to let me use a few songs. Now it has over 800 views on Vimeo. Part two is in the works, more on that after the video. If you haven't seen it please click below, I have been told by people who have zero interest in hi-fi and/or speakers that it was still an interesting watch.
I really liked how this video turned out, so I decided to make it a series. Loosely based on the idea of profiling independent audio manufacturers. I see this as a pretty general term, I am not planning on limiting it to just stereo or hi-fi producers, but anyone making interesting audio gear. I am thinking of maybe profiling a guitar amp company in the future after I finish part two, which will be about Bottlehead Corp.
Bottlehead makes really gorgeous tube amp kits. There was a time when the audio kit was a huge industry. Audiophiles and budding electricians everywhere would order their Heathkit and put it together in their garage or at their kitchen tables. Today we seem to be too busy to undertake this sort of project. That said, companies like Bottlehead are keeping the dream alive. You get the satisfaction of putting something together yourself in addition to a fantastic amp. They seemed like a perfect compliment to Blumenstein Audio. I shot an interview with Dan Schmalle (their CEO for life) at their headquarters on Bainbridge Island recently, the same day he returned from setting a land speed record on his motorcycle at Bonneville. Now I am about to begin the process of shooting the construction of an amp. This is going to be an interesting shoot, since I will be undertaking the build myself. I bought a soldering station and will first build a practice kit I ordered off the internet (a digital clock)....hopefully all will go well. I am not a fan of being in my own videos, but I really couldn't think of a better or more honest way to portray what Bottlehead does than by showing a novice going through the process, and I am very much a novice when it comes to electronics.
Dan Schmalle, at Bottlehead Corp. Two camera view.
In addition to "Wood and Wires" I have also shot some video for a future piece on Gigs4U and the Seattle City of Music Program. These are the people responsible for the musicians you see playing at SeaTac when you are waiting for your flight. I have shot some video at the airport as well as a couple of interviews. I also recently went on a birding adventure with my lovely wife and pops.... of course I took a camera...so I have a few other irons in the fire....more video will come as soon as I get enough spare time to whip things into shape. I seem to have more ideas lately than spare time.
Founder of Gigs4U Ed Beeson from a recent interview in his home.
So that's it. I am still here, still shooting and editing when I get the time. I will churn out videos as fast as possible considering I have a day job and a wife and a dog. I hope you enjoy them.
Marginal Way is beautiful. It is dirty and gritty, it is surrounded by dust and noise. Train tracks flank it on both sides, as traffic roars above it spewing smoke and sound. Re-bar pokes through, concrete forms stand quietly waiting. Giant trucks pass constantly, industry squeezes in on all sides. Yes Marginal Way is beautiful. Not just because the concrete is smooth and the coping is placed perfectly, Marginal Way is beautiful because of what it IS and how it was born as much as where it is, under a bridge in an industrial wasteland. Marginal Way wasn't built by some giant construction company racing to make a profit, it was not built because some city official finally cracked to the pressure of parents demanding a place to drop off their scooter kids. Marginal Way was built by skaters for skaters, their blood and sweat is in every yard of concrete. MW was built by a community, and in the process they created something beautiful, something much more than the sum of it's parts. Once a year this community gathers to crown a king, they drink beer, eat burgers and hold a contest. All the proceeds go right back into the park, this year they raised over $5000, which will go directly back into building. I can't help but wonder what will happen when they run out of space under that bridge.
My work schedule doesn't afford me the opportunity to attend many skate events, working weekend nights, I usually have to bail mid way through. As luck would have it I was off on Sept 13th. This year I was finally able to be there from start to finish.
If you have been to Marginal Way you know all too well that this place isn't designed for spectators, it's all skateable. This made the huge turn out a little problematic. Even with the addition this year of scaffolding, it was still nut to butt. I spent most of the day stranded on a ledge. So the video above is missing pretty much anything that happened in the shallow end. Lucky for me tons of serious ripping happened around me.
The day started with the groms. The future is bright my friends, as all these kids killed it. Josh Dulac, Quintin LaVille, and Christian Navarro rose to the top to earn spots on the podium, in that order.
Next the ladies got their turn. Flow was the name of the game. With Kristin Ebeling, Jessica Bassett, Colette Peterson and Sally Roepke hitting everything and anything in the park. Krtistin took home the top honor, proving once again that there is nothing at all wrong with "Skating like a Girl".
Proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks, or at least have them do the tricks they learned 20 years ago, the lifers were up next. John Aguilar came down from Bellingham to lay down some serious lines, Brian Malkemes blasted airs off of nearly everything in sight, Kimo Cole killed it all day...but it was Metal Mark who has lines for days at MW (not surprising since you can find him under the bridge nearly every day of the week), who took top prize.
The pros were up next, or at least anyone who was willing to pony up the entry fee in hopes of grabbing a wad of cash.... There were way too many rippers to go into too much detail. Just watch the video.... some stand outs? Nathan Navarro's high speed stand up 5-0 was drenched in style, he made Yakima proud for sure. Ellis killed it per usual, Andy Hopgood flipped his ass off, Phil Hanson came straight from the airport to show why his 2014 title was no fluke and Jonny Weir threw some of the most stylish airs of the day...
Brice Niebuhr rode the place like he built it...probably because he did, since he put in so many hours pouring and shaping the place. If his skating wasn't enough, Brice immediately donated his $500 3rd place prize back to the cause and stuck around until 9 pm helping clean up.
Danny Tumia was stylish as ever as he went huge, (including making giant blunts look way too easy)... but the day belonged to Sky Siljeg. Sky is simply one of the most original and bad ass skaters that the NW has ever produced. His lines don't make sense until you see them done in person. So much style, so much power, and for his efforts he took the top prize and got his name painted on the pillar.
Overall, good times were had by all, beers, burgers and some very serious ripping. Until next year, when we crown another Lord of Seatown.
1 - Josh Dulac
2- Quintin LaVille
3 - Christian Navarro
1- Kristin Ebeling
2 - Sally Roepke
3 - Colette Peterson
1- Metal Mark
2- Kimo Cole
3 - Brian Malkemes
1 – Chris Tarrosa
2 – Levi Starkweather
3 – Mike Desiano
1 – Sky Siljeg ($1500 + Seattle Rattle)
2 – Danny Tumia ($1000)
3 – Brice Niebuhr ($500 donated back to the park)
4 – Chad Fenlon ($400)
5 – Adam Hopkins ($300)
6 – Phil Hansen ($200)
Thanks to these fine sponsors for making it all possible...Snowboy Productions, Lib Tech Skate, Die Cut Stickers, Volcom, Evo, Black Market Skateboards, 35th Ave Skate Shop, Sausage Skateboards, Dirty Bearings, Grindline Skateparks, NW Snowboards, Alive and Well and BC.
*apologies...an early version of this post had Kimo winning the Gramps division, Metal Mark might kick my ass now...so there is that....
Over the course of shooting my "My Knees Hurt", I occasionally shoot video of skaters that don't fit the subject matter. For instance Payton Moriarity is only 16 and way too young to be included, but the kid rips. I decided to do a series of "One Run/One Shot". documenting just that, one run start to finish in one continuous shot. Here is the first installment. Shot under a very ugly yellow roof (making shooting a bit of a challenge without lights) somewhere in West Seattle WA with a Panasonic GH4.
Thanks to Dreamsalon for allowing me to your their song "New Aesthetic".
It's been an eventful few weeks up here in Seattle. I took advantage of a week off to get a bunch of shooting in. The first shoot was with William Stein.
Professor Will Stein delivering knowledge
If you had told me that shooting a documentary about skateboarders would take me to a lecture on the Sage Math Cloud at the UW I'm not sure if I would have believed you....but that's where I found myself. William may be the best example of "skaters aren't who you think they are" that I will ever hope to find. Mr Stein is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Washington, a software engineer and an absolute ripper. From number theory to frontside inverts in a single afternoon.
Eugene fighting off a swarm to tell his story.
Next on my plate was an interview with Eugene Lardizabal at the Seattle Vert Ramp. Eugene was maybe one of the easiest interviews I've had to shoot so far, just an all around good dude with great stories to tell. Although we were swarmed by mosquitoes the whole time. I still walked away with a very insightful interview.
My lovely wife and I took a road trip down to Oregon to shoot a little with the living legend that is Wally Inyoue. Wally cooks and coaches at Windell's Skate/Snow Camp just outside of Sandy Oregon. If you find yourself with a chance to visit this place, by all means jump on it. That park is beyond fun, and spans the entire camp. I got some runs in while Wally was occupied with his day job. Then I got some great shots of Wally tearing that place apart ... also you can snowboard in the summer on Mt Hood .... Oregon kicks ass my friends!
Getting a shot of Wally Inyoue. Crossover over the love seat.
We got home from this road trip just in time for me to blow out my MCL. Shooting will be a challenge for a bit, at least until I am cleared to walk without the use of crutches. Luckily my wife is an angel and will occasionally carry my gear for me.
Mark Hubbard builds the parks we ride.
Crutches didn't stop me from taking advantage of a rare appearance by Grindline's Mark Hubbard in Seattle. Mark is sort of directly responsible for me skating again. I drive past his work at least twice a day in the form of the Delridge Skatepark. Mark is a busy man, building as many as five or six parks at a time all over the world. From a current project in Kentucky to as far afield as Israel. Mark's story mirrors where skateboarding has gone over the last few decades. Instead of sporting goods companies and the like cashing in on skateboarding every decade or so, more men like Mark are taking the bull by the horns and doing things on their own, for the love of the sport. From a gorilla bowl under a bridge, to a bowl in his neighbor's back yard, to million dollar parks all over the world, he builds parks because he loves skating and wants places for his friends to ride. His interview is inspiring and at times hilarious....Once this project is done I will have to post the entire hour plus.... dig it.
Anyway...for now I will be sort of hobbled, hopefully I will be back on my feet soon and back in the park shooting some old dudes ripping. Cheers Skateboarding!
The last run before my MCL betrayed me...photo Darlene Tsao
So I dropped my latest teaser video a few days ago and the response has been pretty amazing. I could not be more stoked that so many people are excited to see my project, and believe in what I am doing. So let me answer a few questions that have come up.
First of, the most asked question is when will I be able to see this movie? The answer isn't simple. I honestly don't really know. The short answer is, not right away. The honest answer is that I won't be done any time soon. My plan at the moment is to shoot more through the summer and edit next fall and winter. Not that I am not constantly compiling and editing stuff already, it's just going to take a while to flesh this thing out. I'm not going to rush it, it could be sooner, but I'm not going to commit to a date. Part of the problem is that I am doing this mainly on my own, while holding down a day job and having a life. Trust me when I say that this will get done, I more than anything want to make sure that it's done right. I feel a huge weight on my shoulders to represent the skaters in my movie correctly, and to make sure that skateboarding itself is fairly represented. I am doing this out of love and I really don't want to let anyone down.
What my spare time usually looks like these days.
Next Question. If you aren't even close to done why did you release those teasers? Also not a simple answer. The first teaser was necessary to prove to those involved that I sort of knew what I was doing. It was hard to convince some subjects that I was headed in the right direction with this thing, and not just another dude with a GoPro, (not that there is anything wrong with GoPro). The second video is a little harder to explain. I guess part of it comes down to me doubting myself. Getting input that I am heading in the right direction seems vain, but I really needed to hear it. I also want to keep up the stoke. Since this project is taking so long to complete I felt the need to show everyone involved where it is heading. It's ever evolving, and I want to keep everyone updated. Plus I have so much rad video....I want you to see some of it. I could always use more input and help, every video I post seems to grow interest and has paid off with more pieces of the puzzle falling into place.
Another issue that has come up that I couldn't be happier about, and has required some very serious thought is the addition of professional skateboarders to my project. I have struggled with this endlessly and have sort of come to a conclusion. The main theme of this project is men and women that skate well into their later years out of sheer love of skateboarding. When the answer to the question, "Why do you still skate?" becomes obvious I think it takes away from my narrative. Skaters that have made skateboarding their careers, while still compelling, don't fit all that well into my movie. I don't want this to be a promotional vehicle for skaters that still make money skating. Also many times their stories have already been told by others. I have nothing against them, and it's very hard to not want to shoot with my childhood heroes, it would just complicate things. You probably have noticed that there are in fact a couple of former professionals in my movie already. The difference is that these skaters have long ago retired from professional skateboarding, yet they still skate every day, they aren't household names still pulling in sponsorship money. This I find compelling, and feel fits perfectly in my story. They have no incentive to still skate other than a love for skateboarding. I could not be more stoked to hear from some amazing pros though....it's so rad to get emails and calls from guys I've always looked up to.
I hope that doesn't sound too dictatorial. I just have a look and feel that I am trying to maintain. Granted I am learning as I go, but I need to be sure that everything fits into this giant puzzle.
Now to money? I am doing this entirely out of my own very shallow pockets. Being creative with shooting has kept the cost down, I DIY and bodge together stuff when I can. I am also shooting most of my video on a pretty inexpensive DSLR. I'm also very lucky to have some very talented and connected friends who have helped immensely. I have had a couple of sponsorship offers, unfortunately none of them were serious enough, or appropriate. I am not willing to sacrifice the integrity of my project with kooky brands attached. If you are interested by all means please contact me. I would be more than happy to take your money.
Honestly, when I started this thing I had no idea that people would want to be in it.... let alone professionals ....I had no clue people would want to help me shoot it, would be so into it, would be inspired by the guys in this movie as much as I am. I hope I don't come off as a dick here .... I just wanted to clarify a few things, and to temper some expectation. Please email me with your stories and any thoughts, I welcome all of your input, and offers. Thanks so much for even reading this crap, for watching my videos, for putting up with me in the park with all my gear, for everything. I am humbled by all of you. Thank you skateboarding... for everything.
I found the solution to the winter blues here in Seattle. It resides under a giant yellow roof in the woods somewhere in South Seattle. It's the above giant Vert ramp where sessions go off nearly every day. Thanks to my old friend Gabe Hall for getting my foot in the door and for the introductions, and thanks to all those involved for putting up with me and my camera. This place has the best vibe I've experienced in ages, with riders of every age and skill level cheering each other on. Some serious shredding goes down under that translucent yellow tarp. My next teaser will be dropping shortly, look for some shots of Eugene Lardizabal destroying this place.
I didn't go to the SVR simply to watch the ripping, I took my camera. I'm stoked to have Eugene Lardzabal, William Stein and Ant Hancock agree to represent the older vert riders in my movie. I can't wait to shoot more with these dudes, all three of them absolutely kill it. Unfortunately some of my early video suffered from some technical issues (the color yellow), the upside is that this place is open rain or shine. Architect Ryan Spence and his crew of volunteers built a beauty.
He's a little young to be featured in my film...but I had to post a picture of Payton Moriarty. Keep your eyes peeled for this kid in the future. Everything he does is gigantic and super stylish. This kid is a ripper and at 14 he's only going to get better. It's going to be rad to say that I knew him way back in the day when he's famous..
If you want more information on the Seattle Vert Ramp or would like to donate to the cause please visit their web site. It's a private ramp, to get the keys to the kingdom will cost you, but it will be worth it I assure you.
Thanks again to Greg Stonebraker for the fantastic photos,
Ben Rupp, film maker, rocker, skater.
Middle Aged Shred