Words: Danny Wilson // more Gleaming The Cube
Over the course of the last decade or so, Patrick O’Dell has secured his position as one of the most significant figures in the skateboard media, first coming to prominence as a photographer and writer for arguably skateboarding’s most significant monthly publication, Thrasher. Through his photos of and articles detailing the trips, tricks and “hi-jinks” of the Warner Avenue and Piss Drunx crews that dominated the early portion of the decade, O’Dell pioneered a style of his own offering us a candid look into the lifestyles of some of the time periods most important skateboarders.
With the launch of his own photo blog Epicly Later’d in 2005, O’Dell was at the forefront of a new age in skateboard media as we were offered a far greater insight into the personal lives of skateboarders than had ever been granted previously. O’Dell’s secured his reputation with the launch of his VBS.tv series of the same name. Beginning as a series of shorts offering a day-in-the-life glimpse into the lifestyle of a professional skateboarder, the show evolved into perhaps the most significant historical document within skateboarding culture as O’Dell began putting together biographical films on some of skateboarding’s most fascinating teams and individuals.
We caught up with O’Dell recently to talk about what he considers his shows place within new skateboard media to be and his views on the ever changing ways we consume skate content.
Firstly, how did you originally end up coming from living in Ohio as a teenager to working at Thrasher?
I met Bryce Kanights, who was the photo editor of Thrasher when I was in high school and started sending pictures in. They published a few things. Later I met Michael Burnett who hired me to the staff. I need to thank them both!
Do you think people have a romanticised notion of what it’s like working in skate journalism, or was working at Thrasher much the same as you had imagined it would be?
It was amazing. I think it was pretty romantic. Getting to travel, skate, take pictures, and write stories. I loved it, but at some point I needed to try different things. Thrasher is the best skate magazine, it’s always great to work for the best stuff.
Moving on to starting to work with Vice. I’m under the impression you got the go ahead to do the Epicly Later’d webshow off the back of your photoblog. How did the show come to be? Did you approach the people at Vice with the idea of doing a documentary series or was it the idea of somebody else in-house?
It was Jesse Pearson’s idea, who was the editor of Vice and one of the founders of VBS.TV. They were starting the web channel and wanted a variety of content, and a skate show seemed like a good idea. I wasn’t sure what to call it, maybe like “Skate World” or something, and Jesse said “unless you think of something in the next week, the show will be called Epicly Later’d”.
When the show first got the go-ahead, did you know you wanted to do serious in-depth documentaries about skaters? Was there an expectation the show would focus more on parties and the sort of stuff you were photographing for the blog at the time of the show’s inception?
I think originally we were gonna focus on skits, and short features. Sort of like a R-rated Sk8TV. But it evolved into what it is now somehow.
Was there an episode in particular that served as a realisation for yourself of the show’s potential? A point at which you realized you could be a bit wider in scope than the slice-of-life kind of stuff you were doing in the very earliest episodes?
Yes, when I got the Gonz / Hosoi interview. That was the turning point, It was like “can I actually make something about skate history, and not just ‘pro skaters getting tattoos’?”
Aside from the issues you had in the production of the Antwuan episode that you have already discussed at length, are there any other episodes that you felt didn’t pan out the way you had envisioned them or that you’d like to go back and do again if you had the opportunity?
Yes, a lot of the early episodes are kinda half baked. I would like to revisit them and make them more in depth. I used to do an episode in a week, now they take months to film, months to edit.