Drugdealer’s Mike Collins and Danny Garcia Bring Back the Dream of the Mid-’90s
Back in the mid-90s (the actual mid-90s, not the Jonah Hill flick), there were two ruling entities of adolescent tweenage suburbia: music videos and skate videos. After-school afternoons were a potent mixture of Fun Dip, Alternative Nation, and skate sessions in school parking lots, followed by viewings of whatever VHS you purchased from CCS with money you earned mowing the lawn. (For me, this was the 1996 classic Trilogy, a World Industries/Blind/101. Peep this shit!)
This may reek of nostalgia, or worse, “back in my day!”-ism, but in the hey-day of Alien Workshop–the indie skateboarding brand that dominated our world—the only way to find out about new things was through direct communication. And often, those communications happened on the school bus, or at the skate park, or at the parking lot of the Taco Bell next to the skate park while scrounging for quarters so you could secure a soft shell taco as a canvas for your six packets of Fire sauce. Mike Collins, the musical architect of the Los Angeles-based band Drugdealer, is a product of that era, as is pro skater Danny Garcia. A few years ago, in the Zuckerberg-era, their paths crossed, and eventually, they’d begin skating and making music together, with Danny lending his axe skills (and preternatural slide guitar work) to Drugdealer’s latest album, Raw Honey.
I chatted with the skate rats, er, musicians about their romantic meet-cute, discovering Donovan, and why the hell people think skaters are sooo freaking coool.
MICHAEL MCGREGOR: Yo. How was your Uber?
MICHAEL COLLINS: My Uber’s good. It’s about to end but …
MCGREGOR: This phone call’s supported by Uber.
COLLINS: My Uber driver’s name is Dean and he used to make beats and he used to go to the same car wash as Peanut Butter Wolf. Isn’t that a dope world?
MCGREGOR: How’d you guys meet?
COLLINS: I have my own version of this story and it’s very romantic and Danny is always like, “Man, that’s not how it happened.” So, have Danny tell you. I want to hear how we met, Danny.
DANNY GARCIA: We met at a bar. Footsies on Figueroa. Do you agree on that? I had heard the Drugdealer record and was kind of digging it.
COLLINS: You knew my face.
GARCIA: When I saw you I was like, “Yo, I like your record.” I don’t know, we had a ten minute conversation and that’s kind of all I remember. The romantic version’s better.
COLLINS: In my version he’s like, “Let me get you a drink.” But, in his version he’s like, “I didn’t get you a drink.” So, he probably didn’t.
GARCIA: I don’t buy people drinks.
COLLINS: I grew up being obsessed with Alien Workshop Photosynthesis, and I just thought Danny was a fuckin’ superhero.
MCGREGOR: So you recognized Danny at first sight?
COLLINS: No, at first I was like, “Oh, whoa, who’s this?” Because Danny—and you’ve gotta put this in the interview—he is strikingly fuckable. He’s like this Samoan porn star. You’re handsome, Danny. You know you’re handsome. You’ve never admitted it, but you’ve always known it.
But, anyways, I was like,”Oh my god, that’s Danny Garcia from Habitat Skateboard.” And at that point in my life, I had known a couple good amateur skateboarders in L.A., but I didn’t know anyone from that school of early ’90’s pros. Especially at your height in the 2000’s, that’s when I was a little kid obsessing over those videos. My room was covered in pictures from Transworld and Thrasher and I definitely had an ad that you were in on my wall. So when he came up to me at the bar I played it cool and then we went over to get a drink, I was like, “Yo, man. I really like your gnarly heels.” He was like, “What the …? How do you know about that?” And I was like, “I’m a fucking number one skate rat, bitch.” Check me out sometime.
GARCIA: We were both living in Highland Park at the time. We’d just meet up and skate.
COLLINS: Danny ‘s one of the best style-wise skateboarders from the early 2000’s, but he’s even better at fucking slide guitar. I felt like it was fate that my vain interest in his amazing skateboarding abilities turned me on to probably someone who’s going to be a really sought after session musician after this hit record comes out.
GARCIA: Skating just kind of creates a rhythm to the relationship. The beginning of relationships are always a little awkward. They’re exciting, but they’re naturally awkward, too.
COLLINS: It’s kind of trippy. I saw exactly how we could collaborate musically from the way that we skated together. A skate park is really like a psychedelic, or rather, a metaphysical art studio. It’s like, “Hey, I’m going to meet up with my friend,” and then he starts flipping the board over this thing that’s like angled in two different ways and going down backwards and you’re just like, “Oh, damn. I like this guy.” My whole life I’ve struggled to just do basic tricks and for you to say my pop shove-it tail grabs are acceptable—it’s like when the most beautiful girl in the world is like, “I like that you have a double chin.”
GARCIA: That company, Habitat Skateboards, was mainly one dude running the show named Joe Castrucci. He was into ‘60’s, ’70’s psychedelic folk rock music. Stuff that would be on Fading Yellow or Nuggets. That Donovan song “Get Thy Bearings.”
COLLINS: Basically a preeminent Drugdealer song book. You skated to the Chocolate Watchband. Skateboarding has always had it’s finger on the pulse of what is cool in music.
GARCIA: It’s always been a part of it. You kinda gotta dig for the songs that you’re going to put in your video because that’s going to make them more exciting.
COLLINS: Who in the skate industry, if you had to choose one person, was really integral in having like great music supervision taste for skate videos?
GARCIA: There’s a lot, but the one that comes to mind for me was Aaron Meza. He made “Penal Code,” this FTC video. I don’t know if that was ’94, or maybe ’95. I’d heard Sly and the Family Stone before, but not really like that. There’s a Love song in there, “Always See Your Face.” I’d never heard of them.
COLLINS: This is so cheesy, but I remember in the Osiris “The Storm” video, the opening song was “Riders on the Storm.” For like a year, I used to watch that video and I never looked up who it was, and when I did find out that it was The Doors, it programmed my mind to be like, “Oh my god, I’m going to find out everything about Jim Morrison.”
GARCIA: It just became like the older brother with a great record collection showing you shit.
COLLINS: Skateboarding is just a bunch of kids that maybe don’t have that older brother or older sister character who’s going to show them the counterculture shit—the Russian dollhouse of older sibling energy in the ether that’s telling the younger generation, “Hey man, don’t listen to what’s on the radio. Check out this weird old Donovan song,” or whatever.
GARCIA: You’re looking at all these characters and you get to pick and choose which ones you think are cool, and you get to try to dress like them, listen to their music, talk like them, even.
COLLINS: Usually the kind of skateboarding that I’m into points toward a really special human being.
GARCIA: You kind of gotta have your shit together to be a good skateboarder. You gotta be in shape, more or less.
COLLINS: Maybe that’s why there’s that weird thing where certain people are attracted to skaters. If you’re a cool skater you basically have to be into cool art and understand fashion. And you are kinda in shape. But I’m not a very good skater.
GARCIA: Well, I’m glad I get to play on your songs and hang with you and drink beer with you and skate with you.
COLLINS: You don’t drink beer anymore, don’t try to pretend like you do in this interview.
GARCIA: No, I started drinking again.
GARCIA: I’m wasted right now.
COLLINS: My god, dude.
GARCIA: We’ll sort this out off the record when we’re going to grab a beer together.