I was fortunate enough to spend a good amount of last year traveling North America. Probably the most memorable and enjoyable portion of my journey wouldn't have been possible if not for the chance encounter of someone wearing a blackjack project t shirt one evening at a show in Orange County. I won't bother going into much detail, but the story beforehand somewhat resembles a Hunter S. Thompson novel, the movie The Hangover, and is the reason I never want to go back to Las Vegas. But had this not happened, it wouldn't have led to me running into Matt.
Matt is definitely someone who's skating speaks for itself, and has through the years progressed and adapted with the times. Which is why, in my opinion, it's still so interesting to watch, especially in person! Never was there a point when we skated where he'd hesitate to try something he wanted to shoot, even if the environment or the elements where against us.
His own persona and charisma adds to this character too, and with his true Chicagoan style spirit, you can guarantee you're always in for a good time, or a few laughs. And after spending the best part of three months hanging out, traveling California and a good chunk of the country (on a trip Jack Kerouac himself would have been jealous of), I can safely say he's the best person I've ever had the misfortune of spending time with.
This is Matthew Ladewski...
What made you decide to move back to Chicago, and what've you been up to since your return home?
Moving home had some contributing factors. I lost my job and without going too far into detail it was under rather unfortunate circumstances. I was kind of bummed out because I had worked with the company for 6 years. It definitely wasn't a forever type of job, but it paid well enough to chill in nice weather and gave me the freedom to pretty much do whatever, which was mostly blade with the homies. With my funds on the low, I decided it was best to not get another 'for the moment' type job and take some time to think of a solid plan. I decided to go back to school. I like the idea of getting my masters and being able to teach. It has potential to be a great tool. I can experience new places while also having some freedom.
Chicago seems to have a pretty good scene right now, how does this compare to California?
Chicago has ALWAYS had a good scene. So much youth for as long as I could remember. A lot of history here too. The reason it probably has never made the headlines the way California has is solely because of the weather. You can only skate here maybe 3-4 months out of the year (laughs). At least thats what it feels like. The best part is skating developing back towards the true street style. True street skating, in the middle of a city, is alive and well here. Also getting some new skateparks directly in the downtown area, which could be very cool if they don't totally blow it. California when I first moved there 4 years ago was lively. We were finishing Voodoo Show for a while, some early Valo V seshs, lots of BBQ's, Blading Cup. Then it slowed down a bit, for whatever reason. Not necessarily in a negative way, just sometimes you get back to those seshs where you just chill and kick it. I think there's more room for that now. There's a time for using a camera and there's a time for leaving it at home. It definitely chills the scene out when you aren't doing a full project. Which seemed like the status when I left California.
What do you miss about Long Beach, and more importantly living in the warehouse with JC and Jack?
Long Beach was awesome. It's like any place, there are things that drive you crazy about it and at the same time there are those things that make it feel like home. Long Beach reminded me of some neighbourhoods in Chicago. It has a really unique variety of household incomes and cultural backgrounds. Its more real and a little rough around the edges. I think my family thought it was straight up jungle warfare shit, until they saw pictures and heard me talk about it. I loved the vibe. It was relaxed but still had a liveliness about it. There was a sense of community and closeness to things. Living with JC was interesting. It was all around a super positive experience. I learned so much from JC. He was always designing, filming, taking photos, painting, fixing up the warehouse. He always had Rother or Rachard over, scheming and staying high as fuck, like always high (laughs). JC became one of my best buds, I have a lot to thank him for. Plus having another pure midwest attitude around helped me stay normal between LA and OC. Jack, I fucking love that dog. There were soooo many times when JC and I wanted to kill him, but thats every dog, they do dumb shit. But that dog could cheer me up, his dumb hanging ear and shit eating grin, he's a true buddy.
What's going on with thee Strange, anything more in the pipeline with Amir and them guys?
lol I honestly have no idea whatsup with Amir. He is in Portland now, I think he's pretending to be an Italian dude at some cafe or something. I'm kidding. He seems like he really likes it and that's cool. We were all bummed when he left. At the time it was hard to understand, but when I look at it and see where I am now, change is good. Its also a good idea to try out new places when you're young. He sent me some shirts and buttons about a month ago. A few of the dudes just visited him and kicked it in Portland and Seattle. I know Thee Strange has a skate on the way with Valo, I've seen a version but not sure if it was the final. Keep on the lookout I guess.
How is it riding Valo, and is there anything we need to look out for in the future with them guys?
Valo is good. It's always been good. JJ is beyond awesome. He is the hardest worker. He really kept the vibes in SoCal going when I was living there. He keeps the vibes going for a lot of rollerblading culture. Its definitely amazing that he is still doing it. Skating, running brands, comps, online content. I mean someone has to do it and I'm sure he'd say the same thing. Valo 6 is underway I believe. I'd definitely love to see some homies visit Chicago or the surrounding area. We'll see.
Who has the best beard on the team, you or Brandon?
Brando, for sure. I had a good one going for a hot minute, but B really keeps it going. Ivan was getting in there for a second too, but its just hella Mexi style, so I don't know if it counts. I have since chopped mine off. I was using it to fight the weather here in Chicago, its brutal right now, but people kept asking me if I was from Oregon and shit, so whatever.
What made you decide to give up hockey, do you think you'd ever get back into it?
Giving up hockey was kind of crazy. It was hard because it was that one thing I was good at naturally. I never had that feeling more than when I played hockey. Thats how I know how to blade. I quit for a few reasons. I despise the way its organized. Coaches were assholes and parents of players were bigger assholes. Hockey people are all psycho. Don't ask me how but I swear I had this sixth sense when I was a kid. I could tell when coaches and parents were being unfair to the kids. Plus, every coach I ever had was obsessed with winning like it was their own reckoning. Sure they taught us how to play, but I was a visual learner and just watched the pros, then reenacted what they did. Then I started rollerblading and mentally hockey took the back seat. I continued to play, but I was always thinking about rollerblading. I received a college scholarship for hockey, then hung up my ice skates my sophmore year. It was just too much, practice 4 times a week, plus games on the weekends. Rollerblading and having a social life was more interesting. Now I play a few times a month. What's cool are all the other homies that play. Alex, Jeph Howard, and a few homies here in Chicago play. Hockey is the best sport, but I've been watching a lot of soccer lately.
What's next, do you think you'd pursue a further career in design, any chance of a move back west?
Shit. I don't know. I would like to teach art/design. I have some ideas on how to improve programs. I think students are getting ripped off at universities in America. Teaching has benefits like travel and summer. I definitely don't want to work in some advertising agency atmosphere. Probably freelance and kick it for now. I'll be in Chicago for a little bit, but I like to move so you never know.
Favourite Leonardo DiCaprio movie?
Titanic, no doubt.
Favourite Lou Reed/VU song?
Of course you'd ask this. I'm so emo for Lou. I like the entire Fully Loaded album. I like all his albums. It's much too hard to name a favourite. 'I Found A Reason', 'Ocean', 'New Age' but I also love 'Pale Blue Eyes', 'Ride Into The Sun", "Venus In Furs". Almost gave you a top 10 (laughs).
Favourite Adam Brierley moment?
Every moment. I'm laughing just thinking about it. All Thee Strange dudes are a blast. Miss them for sure. I swear we've all tried to convince Adam to give it up and get youtube famous. His City Life quote, points at LA and says, "LA City" and in downtown LA holding a short board looking cheesy as hell and says "LA's Sick!". hahahaha. The bonus footy of Voodoo Show is by far the most valuable shit. Adams Star Wars edit is good too, its deep in the web though.
What is the Gristle in the Grundle and why is it a Grimace?
Gosh, I know when we went through KCMO on our trip you heard a lot of things that didn't make sense. Labarre is an expert on language, he invents new ones everyday. These terms might sound like hocus pocus but I assure you they have meaning. My understanding from Nick is the Gristle is the thing, the substance. The Grundle is the location of the Gristle. The Grimace is the general mood/vibe of the Grundle. It's a family of terms really. These have a certain negative connotation. When you're in a social situation and you feel you're at the Grundle with the Gristle its definitely going to be grimacey. Only natural.
Worst travelling companion?
YOU!!! You bloody clunge! Fuckin tosser! Whinging prat! Pishy cunt! Fuckin divvy! James is such a minger! This twat thinks it's clever to get shanted before our big road trip across the states. Dodgy cunt apologizes for the first 5 hours about how he blew it by getting tossed because he was nervous. Then has the nerve to get knackered and drift off leaving me driving alone for hours on end! WORST! haha, I'm kidding Sharpie! But thats a true story in proper English.
Anyone you'd like to thank?
All the homies and bb's out there. Strange fools, Chicago Fam, KC homies, JJ, LBC buds, Gucci. All the positive people out there and of course James Sharp! Shouts to The Booted for doing this. TY
Words and photos by James Sharp.