For all of the beauty that we see in today's New York, the City is nothing without its dark corners, crowded clubs, and social politics. Post-2001, we're used to the Girls and the How to Make It In America-s of the media world to show us the "real New York." Those properties are great in their own way, but for something like Boys Life NYC—a hybrid blog-diary founded by skater/DJ Andrew Brown in 2009 that "realness" was embedded in the candid (and in some cases, harsh) look at New York City living.
Using the momentum and popularity from his work with Boys Life NYC, Brown crafted a novel—self identified as "Erotic Skate Fiction"—which, while fictional, draws from years of personal experiences in NYC; chasing girls, skating in SoHo, and sending an incredible amount of BlackBerry Messages.
The book, titled "None of the Bad Ones", is currently on Kickstarter to help raise funds for printing, publishing, and raising awareness for the project. There are plenty of great things on Kickstarter, but it's safe to say that none of them have Alex Olson (of Bianca Chandôn and 917 fame) making T-shirts for backers.
We spoke to Brown on crafting "Erotic Skate Fiction," how he scored the support of Alex Olson, and that getting older only means better art.
When we first heard about "None of the Bad Ones," it was explained as an "Erotic Skate Novel." In brief, what exactly is an Erotic Skate Novel?
Galen, of Dollar Stories fame, coined the term "Erotic Skate Fiction" a few years back. We were both writing about sex and skateboarding and it just clicked. So, I guess you could say it’s a novel that in some way explores skateboarding and sexuality. My book isn’t just about, like, "kickflipping into some pussy," there are underlying themes, but "Erotic Skate Novel" had a nice ring to it. You've got to get people’s attention somehow.
Your blog, Boys Life, was a simultaneously crass and insightful look at NYC life. Is the book coming from that same perspective? What, if anything, separates the tone of the book from your earlier blog?
That’s a good question. The first thing that separates it is four years of writing and intensive editing. I think people who were into Boys Life but also understood its shortcomings will be pleased with the leap in quality. The prose is just leaner and way tighter. As far as the voice, I definitely wrote the first draft in the Boys Life voice, but the book was never “getting posted next Monday” so I was able cut the fat. All that petty bullshit designed to get me laid, or get attention online, that stuff had to go. But the dark side is still there, it’s maybe even more pronounced.
Certain things the characters say, things the narrator does, I don’t condone them now, I don’t think I ever did, but they had to stay on the page. It was important that I honor the guy who wrote the first draft, respect his vision and respect the narrator’s voice as well. I had to really check myself a few times, not start messing with the formula just cause I’m a little older and wiser. My narrator isn’t any older or wiser he’s in that moment.
Why did you choose the backer rewards that you did? You've mentioned on the Kickstarter that you chose Blackberry iPhone cases to represent the phones used by characters in the book, but why a T-shirt?
I lived in New York from '02 – '14 and the culture Downtown was always—if you’re doing something, you do a shirt. Start a brand, a party, band, whatever, you've got to come with a dope shirt. Like Tiki Disco, those are my boys, and the shirt they did their first summer was fire, everybody wanted one. I figured if this was going to work I had be myself, do what I know.
I know my audience, they’re great, and they will like this book, but some of them aren’t used to reading. Pushing a book, especially a book with no pictures is fucking hard. I wanted to entice younger cats to check it out, hopefully they go for the tee because it’s 917 and it looks sick, but down the road maybe they sit down on their phone or iPad and actually read the book. Publishing companies can’t get young men to read, not in any real numbers, I’m trying to do that. It’s an "okey doke, ply them with the goods, sneak in the lit."
You've chosen Alex Olson (of Bianca Chandôn fame) to collaborate with, why Alex?
I’ve known Alex a long time and have been in the mix with the Bianca squad since its genesis. I’m not an employee or co-owner or anything, I’m just around those dudes, that’s family. They’ve been killing it, and I’m lucky they had the time to help with this. I came to Alex with a couple ideas and he kinda tossed them out, cause that’s just Alex. Instead he pushed me towards the fictional bookstore angle. I trusted his vision and stated bringing the erotica aspect to it and it just came together from there. People love it. It’s really given the Kickstarter a nice boost. I’m grateful for the look they gave me.
It's noted in your earlier Quartersnacks interview that you're working with 917—the more skate centric sidebrand of Bianca—on the novel's tees. Why 917 instead of Bianca? Was this a specific choice based on the novel, or something more?
Well more than anything I’m a 917 type of dude. Like, they’re about to drop a bunch of 917 stuff later this summer, and that line is just a better fit for me as a person. It’s more for skate rats, less chic. I’m not really a fashion guy, I know about that stuff and I can identify a Celine bag or something, but as a person it’s not my shit. I’m into Vietnam era tiger patterns and Dickies. I care about the way I dress, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in Comme [des Garçons] or anything like that. I had a Suicide Girls membership for like 10 years, but I can’t really name any super models besides the ones in the “Freedom! 90” video and Gisele.
Skate-inspired clothing brands (like Bianca, Dime, Palace, or Polar, to name a few) seem to be cropping up everywhere in fashion circles. Obviously you're close with Alex and the 917/Bianca Chandon team, but are there any other brands that you're really into at the moment?
Yea, I like all those brands, but I mostly wear Quartersnacks gear. I sometimes help with their music supervision and I had the first line at 3 up 3 down, so "I’m QS flow 4 lyfe." I like Palace too but it’s such a hassle to get that stuff. Their latest Adidas shoe is sick but they sold out instantly. I know some of those dudes in passing but I don’t want to be the guy who’s asking for gear you know? Oh, and I want to try on the new Polar pants. I’m always on the hunt for a better black pant. And Dime is sick too, I’ve been following Antoine Asselin since the last Real video, I’m psyched to see him killing it. I’ve got good things to say about all those brands, but don’t forget Hopps. Hopps has been doing clean simple clothing longer than almost any of them. They don’t get the shine they deserve. Jamal is the man.
As mentioned earlier, there's lots of skate brands entering the fashion sphere, like Bianca Chandon at Dover Street Market. You've mentioned that you're skating less and focusing on your writing. Do you think this is simply because a generation of skaters are getting older and moving out of the game onto other interests? I can recall an earlier Boys Life post that points out "the moment" when dudes realize they're not going to go pro, or have to step out of the scene for some reason, and move on to other things.
Well, I’m skating less because I’m 36 and it’s just god damn painful. I only skate street, hell on the Knees. But the other thing, if you look at it, the rise of art, fashion and food culture mirrors the decline seen in publishing, movies and especially the music industry. Food and clothes are where disposable income is going today. It makes total sense that the skate world is participating in this. Being in a band is sort of over, nobody wants to be the next Jason Lee and be in terrible movies.
Kids are cooking, doing art, designing clothes—this is where popular culture is right now. We’re for sure going see a pro turned chef soon. He’s out there training in some kitchen right now.
Support "None of the Bad Ones" on Kickstarter.