Black Sabbath & 'MADE Chapter 2' with Justin 'Figgy' Figueroa
Your pro shoe for Emerica just came out, how involved were you in the design process? Did it change a lot over the design period or did Sole Tech get it right from the first samples?
Definitely wasn’t right from the first sample. August [Benzien] came at me with the first idea and it was a little too tech. We definitely went for it, I was just so juiced for it to finally happen and as such a first timer anything he said I’d be like: “Yeah, fuck yeah, yeah, yep…” Then when we got it, it was just like, something I wouldn’t wear or people wouldn’t expect from me. Shit like that. Not that that matters but I’ve been wearing the simplest shoes for the past couple of years. When it came down to it, I don’t want anything too craze. I like simple shit, I’m not trying to change the game. I mean the shoe is tech as fuck but just not on the outside which is a perfect formula for me. With the inside sock and more support behind the tread it turned out exactly the way I wanted it, I couldn’t be more stoked.
You used to religiously skate Emerica shoes before you were sponsored by them, particularly the Reynolds models. How does it feel, all these years later, seeing your name on an Emerica shoe?
It’s fucking beyond! And it’s still hard to fucking stomach. It was gnarly man, so gnarly! Just with being hurt for so long and going through all these ankle surgeries and Emerica still having my back. Not just Emerica, but all my sponsors. Just having the shoe, finally, holding the first pair after all that shit I had to go through. I thought… I don’t know, you just think about the worst shit when you’re all hurt, you just get all paranoid. You’re like “I hope this shit pulls through, I hope my fucking ankle starts working again.”
Both you and Leo Romero have taken a lot of influence from the original ‘Laced’ in your pro models. Were there any other models you took inspiration from for your shoe?
No, I mean the Laced and then Leo made this toe after that and I was fucking obsessed with just how basic everything is. The pointy toe too… I have big ass feet and I can’t have some brick on my feet. I just want it stuck to my toes and I just want to be able to kickflip right out the box. Just feel like I could kickflip on street or ramp, when you put it on. I definitely got a lot of influence from that. I'm stoked it worked out the way it did.
For such a slim profile shoe it’s incredibly supportive. As a stair and handrail jumper was it important for you to have the balance of boardfeel coupled with protection?
For sure. That’s exactly what it is.
So this is the first Emerica model to utilise the new ‘Internal Fit System’?
Yeah. It was just because the toe is similar to the Leo’s we had to find a way for it also to be unique and add any other components you could throw on the inside that you can’t really see. Like, right now, I’m rocking a shoe with no laces.
You’re rocking one shoe lace…
One shoe has laces; the other one doesn’t, [laughs]. I thought it was brilliant that you could kinda cruise and chill or whatever and lace ‘em up and go jump. Definitely, me and August sat down and he presented that internal sockliner and I was like “Fuck yeah, dead on!”. You can’t even see it either, it’s brilliant.
Frontside kickflip. Photo: Emerica
MADE Chapter 2 is coming up later this year and you’re currently filming for it alongside Jerry Hsu and Andrew Reynolds. Who else is due to make an appearance?
I’m sure Jeremy Leabreas will have another part, he’s such a workhorse, that fool rules. It’s me, Reynolds, Bryan Herman, Jerry and I’m sure Leabreas. I don’t know how long this one’s gonna take but I’m sure everyone from the team will have some tricks in this one.
What’s your mindset for this video part? Is it to simply one up yourself from Stay Gold  and Bake and Destroy ?
Dude, just the level of skating… I’m doing everything I can just to go for it like with all the other video parts. It’s hard to, obviously the older you get the fucking harder it’s gonna be to live up to your last video part. Before this trip to Europe I was just completely fucking thrashed. Hands, hips, knees, everything was all fucked up. to recuperate. I’m ready to get back and start jumping. I’ve been going for it. Before this trip I was jumping like I was fucking seventeen, not that I’m some old dude but shit does take a toll. Can’t do this shit forever but I’m definitely giving it everything I’ve got.
How far into your part do you think you are?
About half way, right now. I’m stoked I got a good enough start for me to come on this trip and play music for a month.
You mentioned Jeremy before. He was introduced in the first instalment of MADE. What’s Jeremy like to skate with? There seems to be a lot of influence from you, Leo and Heath Kirchart in his skating.
He’s the sickest skater to watch, he’s got so much power. He gets tricks quick, he slams, he’s fucking on it. He’s super quiet though. Mellow kid but he fucking kills it. Stoked to be on the team with him.
Photo courtesy of Emerica
Speaking of Heath, he recently stepped down as Emerica’s team manager. Did you go on many trips with him in charge?
Going on a trip with Heath when he was on the team was way different to when he was TM. I don’t know, I gotta watch what I say here, [laughs]. He was gnarly. When he was on the team he was fucking Heath Kirchart! He was a fucking badass, he was a prick, he was… He was that dude. Everyone looked up to him, pretty mysterious dude... He was exactly how you think he’d be. He was an asshole, but it was more just like… When we went on the Wild Ride he was just like a high school boy. It was all good, it was funny. But just watching him skate all those years then going on trips it’s exactly what I imagined.
Then as a TM, there was no pressure and he was mellow. He was the coolest dude out; it was so rad to go on a trip with him. Just not having the pressure of skating on him made him mellower to go on trips with him. Then after that, he’s still an adrenaline junkie. He goes on just the wildest adventures like canoeing or climbing a mounting. I’ve just seen photos of him, I’ve forgotten what mountain it was but him and this dude Jeffy just climbed some mountain. I’ve seen some photo of him sleeping on the side of a mountain and it’s just so gnarly. Like a two day mission to climb to the top of this mountain and just getting back down, shit like that.
It’s so rad to see that he’s still pushing other areas of life the way he did with skating; doing just fucking ruthless and gnarly shit. Dude, when you see him skate, it’s still there. He can still fuck shit up dude, he’s still so gnarly.
Do think it’s strange he has almost a cult following within skating?
He’s a fucking mysterious dude, I don’t think it’s weird. I think you’ll have that as long as skateboarding is alive.
Another guy you must have spent a fair amount of time travelling with is Brandon Westgate. Now, a lot of the Emerica team are also on Baker and the whole Baker lifestyle completely contrasts with Brandon who seems quite reserved. Has that ever lead to any interesting moments or encounters on the road?
When I first got on Emerica, Brandon was wild, he was such a little… My first day of an Emerica trip, was on a Wild Ride. I showed up and the team manager, Jeff Henderson, was all flustered. He was all pissed off and mad becauase these fools; Heath, Westgate, Slash (Brian Hansen), just wrecked this hotel room. Threw the TV out the window, shattered the mirror and all this shit. That was defi nitely some years back though. Now he’s a pretty clean and collected dude but still the raddest fool. He wouldn’t judge anyone, he’s just down for it all. He’s the shit and he’s fucking awesome.
So Spanky is getting a board again…
Stoked on that!
Was everyone stoked when they found out?
Fuck yeah dude! Everyone loves Spanky, forever, he’s such a legend.
What Andrew Reynolds delivered in Stay Gold was astounding - to be doing what he’s always done, but better than ever, at his age and after the career he’s had. Is it daunting to think you might be still jumping down shit all those years down the line?
During Stay Gold it was out of control. I can’t believe that dude has still got it like that. Obviously when you get older you’ve gotta change your whole diet, be exercising and all sorts of shit. But mostly, fucking heart. That dude is a fucking die hard skateboarder forever. I hope I can still be doing shit like that…
I imagine it must be really motivating seeing Andrew still push himself.
He definitely puts a lot of pressure on himself during those times. Like before he’d even start jumping he’d be like: “I’m fucking old man, this is gnarly and starting to hurt.” But still, fool pushes through and muscles the shit he does. It’s incredible, one of a kind. Fucking love you, Boss. [Laughs].
Aside from similar taste in footwear, both you and Leo Romero are really into music. Do you guys play together often?
No, but we just recently did our first show together and it was out of control. So rad.
How does that work out as you’re both into very different genres?
Really different for sure, but it’s everyone who’s there; they don’t really give two shits about how good the bands are as they’re all skateboarders. We all skate, it’s all a community and when we do shit it’s like fools are wilin’ out just on the fact that we skate. It’s like everyone in a crowd of skaters, I’m just stoked. It works, it’s really different music but it’s a rad combo.
A few other pro skateboarders are also pretty productive musicians; Austyn Gillette has recorded some solo work and Tommy Guerrero performs live. Are there any skaters’ music you’re really into? Why do you think being a skateboarder and musician complements each other so well?
Tommy Guerrero is one of ‘em. Just being around that dude is gnarly, he’s such a legend. Ray Barbee is such an amazing guitar player and all of his old shit too… I get all star struck when I see these dudes. The fact the Reynolds and Beagle got together and they actually have jams, I think it’s brilliant. It goes hand in hand. For me, music worked out because I got hurt all the time. A lot of these fools, they didn’t have long injuries like me, they just do it for fun. I mean I’m the same way; I’d probably be doing it even if I didn’t hurt but not twenty four shows in a row in Europe. I don’t know how it goes so hand in hand but it just does. For me, drinking beer and going on skate trips and then playing a show at night is the fucking best life I could have ever imagined. You don’t know until you’ve gone on a Skate Rock or done one of these tours, it’s incredible how hand and hand it goes.
Do you think a lot of it comes from skate videos? I know you’re a big Black Sabbath fan. You’ve got an Ozzy Osbourne tattoo right?
Got it when I was eighteen, [laughs].
Did that come from watching skate videos or was is something else? Henry Sanchez skating to ‘Symptom of the Universe’ is pretty iconic…
So fucking awesome! It’s not even that I got this because of skating. When I heard Sabbath -
You just like The Osbournes right? (Laughs).
I don’t know about all of that, [laughs]. Just hearing all of the early Ozzy and Sabbath in general, not to sound cheesy and shit but that spoke to me. Made me want to go out and push everything, push it all.
Got a favourite Sabbath tune?
Everyone listens to obviously Volume Four and Iron Man and all that beginning shit. But the later Ozzy records, like Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die; those are some of my favourite albums of all time. I think they’re essential if you like rock and roll, to get into the later Ozzy shit too. I don’t know about Dio, I don’t really listen to all that Dio stuff. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just when I hear Tony Iomi I want to hear Ozzy next to it.
The Emerica and Lakai tour is taking place this summer, are you looking forward to skating with those guys?
Fuck yeah, I’m just pretty nervous. I mean, I know all these dudes but it’s still like I’m just a baby. I look at these dudes and I’m like, “This is so gnarly.” Going on a trip with Mike Carroll and Rick Howard. I know Raven (Tershy), I’ve been on some trips with Raven and I know Riley (Hawk) is gonna be on it. But, this is gonna be fucking wild, it’s gonna be sick. Stoked.
Finally, as the footwear industry is focusing more on core, skater owned brands again, why do you think it’s important for companies like Emerica and Lakai to show each other support?
I think the fact that it’s so raw. Both those companies are just one hundred percent skateboarders and there’s a lot of ‘corporate’ shit going around. Fuck. All this ‘corporate’ shit is so looked down upon. It’s harsh but skateboarding is like, I don’t know if it’s at a fucking strong point financially but fools need to get on some corporate shit just to live, to keep going, to stay afloat, whatever. But the fact that Emerica and Lakai is one hundred percent just skateboarding is beyond sick. That they could put aside all the competition and just be like, “Lets meet up and let’s make some fucking real, core skateboarding happen.” When I heard I was like “Oh yeah, no brainer. Let’s make this happen!”
Interview by Farran Golding.
Baker Skateboards available in-store and online.