Ed Templeton, feeble, 2000.
Ed Templeton at Emerica's Wild in the Streets 2009 in Vancouver.
Unless you’ve been living in a sewer with CHUD for the past few decades, you already know that Ed Templeton is a man who wears many hats—pro skateboarder, company owner, team manager, artist, photographer, husband and many more. Ed started skateboarding in 1985, and turned pro in 1990. After he married his life partner Deanna in 1991, Ed went on to start Toy Machine and an art career in 1993 and worked hard as hell to launch those and all other aspects of his life to stellar heights. Ed is one of very few pro skaters who loves doing interviews, so when you shove a tape recorder in front of him, you know it's going to be epic. I sat down with Ed in his Huntington Beach, California home on October 26, 2009 for an in-depth look into his past and future. Plenty of laughter littered the proceedings.
Ed Templeton in his garage, 2009.
Are you usually naked when you hang out and work in your house all day?
It depends on if I’m going to paint in my garage or stay in my home office and work. If it’s Summer and I have computer work to do, I’ll go straight from my bed to my office and stay there all day.
Ed Templeton, clothed at the computer, 2009.
That was my impression--that you’re nude at your computer quite often.
I am a lot. I’m not a nudist or anything--I sleep naked and I just walk straight from bed and start doing stuff. A lot of times, it’s really hot upstairs because we don’t have air conditioning. So, yeah, I’ll just kind of work naked. Sometimes, people come over and I have to yell, “Hold on, I have to put some clothes on!” But then, if I’m going to paint in the garage, it’s dirtier down there, and I don’t really want to sit around naked in the garage. Plus, it gets hot in there if I don’t leave the garage door open, so I have to put clothes on. There were a few days this past Summer when I didn’t get dressed the whole day. I literally got out of bed, worked all day, and even hung out on the couch naked watching TV with Deanna. But, I don’t really like to eat naked. It feels kind of gross. At some point in the day, I usually end up putting on a t-shirt and boxers, at the most.
How does Deanna react when you’re naked up in your office?
She doesn’t care, because she’s used to it. She doesn’t say anything. But, there are a lot of times when I don’t even leave the house for three days at a time, because I work here and we eat here, so it feels kind of crazy.
Do you ever get cabin fever?
Yeah, kind of. I start freaking out and want to go out and do something.
Ed Templeton, beard for life, 2006.
Will you ever shave again? Or are you going to rock a beard for life?
I don’t know. It might be beard for life. Every time I shave, I feel like I have a weak chin--like my faces vanishes into nothing.
Oh, like a double chin?
No, not a double chin--well, that, too--but more like a weak, small chin.
I haven’t seen you with a clean-shaven face in over 10 years.
Even when I shaved more often, I would use just the clippers only so it would be more stubbly. I don’t know why, I just like it. I get responses from people who say they like it.
Does Deanna like it?
Yeah, she likes it. I’m not very good at fashion in general, so when people say, “That looks good,” I run with it.
Ed Templeton with Geoff Rowley, circa 2000.
You used to be Quark Boy. Do you use InDesign now?
(Laughs) Is this a question for all of the computer nerds out there? Yeah, I switched over to InDesign. I was the champion of Quark for so long.
A long time ago, you called yourself Quark Boy.
I was! I loved it. I tried to keep flying the Quark flag, but people started wanting Toy Machine ads and stuff as a PDF, and making one of those out of a Quark file is kind of a hassle. It doesn’t work as good, so I switched over to InDesign.
Now that you’ve been using InDesign for a while, do you think it’s better than Quark?
It’s better, because it’s completely integrated with Photoshop and Illustrator. And some of the things that are great about Illustrator can be done in InDesign, like manipulating anchor points in a photo file. It’s really awesome.
Ed Templeton, The Essential Disturbance art show at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, France, 2002.
If you use the computer so much, why do you still shoot photos on film?
The best answer is probably because I can. Increasingly, it makes a lot of sense to use digital if you’re working in a commercial capacity. It makes total sense if I’m going to shoot a portrait of someone on a deadline and I need to get the photo to a magazine. With digital, I can shoot it, check it out, and email it instantly and it’s done, as opposed to having to get film processed. But, for exhibition purposes, I have the luxury of being able to shoot film and do it the old style way. It looks better. It’s funny, because there used to be a point in time when people would say, “Black and white documentary style is just the mainstream, but these new digital color photographers are the new avant-garde. They’re shooting clean, color photos and printing them really big.” But, now everyone has switched over to that and black and white has been left in the dust. So, I think there’s value in a black and white fiber-based print, because there’s not a lot out there anymore. Not a lot of people are doing it. The fact that it’s done by hand on a fiber-based paper in a traditional way makes it more valuable, and it looks better.
You don’t mind spending all of that money on film and processing?
I don’t mind. Now I hire a guy to come and print in my home darkroom. He’s a former skate photographer named Dennis McGrath. He used to shoot skate photos, but now he comes over to my house almost every day and prints for me so I can paint or work on the computer and get a lot of printing done.
So, if you pay him to print your photos, you make the money back by selling them at the art show?
Yeah, but it’s way cheaper than the way I was doing it before, because if I had a big order, or a big stack of prints I wanted to make, I’d end up having to take it to a lab, because I didn’t have time to do it myself. So, it was crazy--one print would cost $100 or more. Now I pay Dennis $100 per day, and he makes 13 or 14 prints.
Ed Templeton in his garage, 2003.
How do you like the Emerica Team network? You update your page a lot.
Am I the only pro who updates it?
Heath, Jerry and Leo used to update their own pages when it was new, but they don’t as often anymore.
I don’t want to bum out the kids reading this, but I spend about two minutes at a time on there. I literally go to my inbox and delete all of the update messages without looking at any of them (laughs). The kids are going to hate me now.
Then how did you see the photo of you I posted the other day?
I might browse a couple, but I mostly just delete them. A lot of times, I’ll look and look and then just think, “I can’t deal with it.” So, I delete. But, then I do end up spending time looking for weird stuff. And if I find a funny YouTube video, it’s super easy to update a video on there, so I’ll throw one up for fun. Once in a while, I’ll spend some time on there, but most of the time, I kind of just go on, friend everyone who friends me, delete a bunch of stuff and move on.
Who are some standouts on the Emerica site that you want to give a shout-out to?
Well, I love BAKED POTATO! It’s just so awesome that there’s a girl on there who posts photos of a Toy Machine hat that she made. I met a girl on there from Guam. She came to a book signing and I recognized her from the site. She said, “I’ve seen you on the Emerica site. I’m a big fan.” One of the kids on there, jgonzalez, comments on the Toy Machine site every single day. He’s someone I remember, too, because he posts funny stuff.
Ed Templeton in his library, 2009.
Why do you say you hate TV but you always watch it?
(Laughs) It’s a catch-22, because I really do think watching TV is a huge waste of time, and yet I find myself relaxing every night by watching it—even though I have a giant library of books that I could be reading. I guess TV is kind of semi-social, because if I’m reading, I’m in my own world, whereas I usually watch TV with Deanna. So, we’ll laugh and be entertained, and I feel like I’m doing something with her. So, that’s part of it. Otherwise, everything I do is super-solitary, like working on the computer or painting.
Do you and Deanna talk a lot?
Yeah, of course. We probably have one of the world’s most claustrophobic relationships possible. I think most people would really not be able to function in such a tight relationship.
Because you’re both home together all the time?
All the time, yeah. I know a bunch of guys who need their man time. My friend Grant consistently doesn’t invite his girlfriend on outings. I’ll be like, “Why didn’t you bring Ashley?” and he’ll say, “I want to hang out with the bros.” Then it hits me. It makes me realize how most people would not enjoy the fact that I’m with Deanna every waking hour. We sleep together, wake up, I work in the house, she’s here.
Do you two ever have blow-ups?
Increasingly not. There were times when we were younger when we’d get in fights over stuff, but lately we barely fight. But, we haven’t had a really big blow-out in a long time. Sometimes, something will happen when she’s not feeling well, or she’s kind of cranky, or I have a headache, and you can tell our tensions are high. That’s the perfect weather for an argument to start over something stupid. That’s usually what it is—it’s never over something big.
Ed Templeton in his library, 2009, take two.
So, do you read many of the books in your library, or are they mostly picture books?
At some point a couple of years ago, I got into a really bad habit of obsessive book buying. They get filed in the library, then a year goes by and I go, “Oh, fuck! I haven’t read that book I bought and I was all excited about it.” I wanted to read it, and I’m psyched on it, but then here I am a year later, it’s just sitting there and I still haven’t read it.
What percentage of your library has gone unread?
Well, since it’s mostly art and photo books, a bigger percentage.
Don’t a lot of those books contain writing?
A lot of them do, but a lot of them don’t, as well. There are a lot that have writing that’s not worth reading, like an introduction that was written just to be in there, and it’s not really going to floor me. But, there are a percentage with really interesting writing about the artist or work, so I don’t know. I probably haven’t read over half of them. I’ve looked through them and enjoyed the artwork, but I plan on reading them.
I don’t know, man, that might cut into your TV time.
I still read everyday, too—it just depends.
Do you ever read novels?
Yeah, all the time. You should see my nightstand—it’s full of magazines and books. There’s no way you could read all of the books that are interesting.
Do you have any art shows coming up?
I just have one major solo show in April 2010 called The Cemetery of Reason at the S.M.A.K. Museum in Gent, Belgium. It’s kind of a big deal. We’re going to make a book, and it’s going to travel to other museums in Malaga, Spain and Sardinia, Italy.
So, that show will feature painting and photography?
Everything. It’s called a survey show, because they’re going to borrow works that collectors have already bought--paintings from the past--and new stuff I’m working on. I’ll throw all of the Beautiful Losers stuff in there, too. In Summer 2010, it’s going to Spain, and it might move into 2011 even because they want to find more venues. So, I might have to oversee the installation of that show for the next three years. Around the same time, I’m going to be taking part in a photography biennial, also in Belgium.
I thought you always had shows booked out for several years.
I do, but it’s not written in stone. Like, I just got invited to do something in the Project Room at Roberts and Tilton gallery in Los Angeles in February, and also something in Copenhagen, but nothing’s ever definite.
Do you earn more of a living off of skateboarding or art shows?
Ed Templeton shows off photos from The Cemetery of Reason art show.
Do you have any new books or zines in the works?
We’re making a catalog for The Cemetery of Reason show. It’ll be the first one that’s more like a traditional art book. All of my books so far have been designed by me. Someone else is going to lay out this one, and there’s going to be essays that try to—it’s so weird--put me into context. I’m also going to try to publish a book of photos taken from the car. I want to make some zines, but I don’t have any concrete plans or spare time. I have this Catalina zine that I’ve wanted to make forever. It gets bigger and bigger as I add more material to it every Summer. This year, we probably went six or seven times.
What attracts you to Catalina?
It’s just the adventure, I guess. Everybody who goes there stays in a quaint little town called Avalon. Everyone just walks around that town and goes shopping, pays for a tour or goes snorkeling. I get there, rent a little boat and leave the town, where it’s completely rugged nature--a cliff, a beach, the ocean, and you.
Ed Templeton, Frog Rock, 2009.
The whole island is not developed?
No, just the town. The minute I leave the town, I’m out there cruising around with dolphins, snorkeling with sharks, looking at bald eagles, picnicking with Deanna and / or my friends on a deserted beach with nobody around. It’s hard to believe you’re in this beautiful island setting within 30 miles of Los Angeles, this giant cancer spot on the Earth. It’s pretty cool. One time, we met this crazy artist guy on Catalina who tried to tell us that he owns one of the beaches and that we couldn’t hang out on it. Later, we were walking around in the town of Avalon and we came across him near his house. He asked, “Are you following me?” We said no, then he invited us in to see all of his paintings. He did a painting of Frog Rock, which I climb up and jump off of all the time. I bought it. He’s really super eccentric and a little bit of a dick, but now he’s our bro. Whenever we see him, we talk to him.
What about your least favorites?
Creed, which is pretty lame jock rock. We saw them on TV or something. I don’t know how I ended up interfacing with Creed, but it was pretty fuckin’ bad. There’s a lot of stuff to hate. It would be pretty easy for me to pluck something out of the air that sucks. Everything sucks now.
Which celebrities have you seen at Mother’s market?
I saw Peter North at Mother’s (laughs). He was just sitting there by himself in the cafe and I noticed him because I had seen a porn with him in it. Apparently, Gary Oldman has been there, and Pam Anderson. Lately, there’s been a guy out in front of Mother’s with one of those photos of Barrack Obama with a Hitler mustache, telling people how the country’s falling apart because of a black president. I get so pissed at him, every single time I have to hold myself back from kicking his little table over. Deanna got in a fight with him the other day. I was surprised, because it was pretty crazy. She started screaming, “This guy’s a child sex offender!” and the guy got super embarrassed and pissed. She just thought, “If this guys going to make up a bunch of lies, then I’m just going to lie, too!” I think she just got riled up by his display. He would try to talk to everyone who walked by.
Ed Templeton at the Downtown Showdown 2009.
Out of anyone in the world, which two people would you like to see get stuck in an elevator together? (Their conversation would be filmed.)
Well, similar to the last question, it would be funny to have Rush Limbaugh and Barrack Obama caught in an elevator and have to talk. That would be interesting. But if I had to think, I could come up with something much funner than that.
How about the Dalai Lama and Peter North? The two opposite sides of humanity—the spiritual and the carnal.
The Dalai Lama is so mellow and progressive, he’d probably be fascinated by Peter North. It wouldn’t even be weird. The Pope and Peter North would be more interesting (laughs). A family with AIDS in Africa who follows The Pope religiously, but they won’t use a condom because the Catholic church says it’s not cool.
Ed Templeton's first magazine cover, TransWorld Skateboarding, April 1990.
What have been some highlights of your skateboarding career?
Travel has been a big part of it—especially U.S. tours with my team. I look back on that and it’s the highlight to me. When I think of what’s been rad about skating, going on tour with my team every Summer is pretty much the highlight of my year. But, also winning the Munster World Championship in 1990 when I first turned pro was an amazing experience for me. Doing Toy Machine has been fun. Certain graphics are fun to make. It’s been a lot more business-like over the past few years, but there was a period when I felt like I was doing something interesting and fun. I’d come up with an idea that seemed hair-brained and do it anyway and get away with it. That was fun.
What about lowlights?
Breaking my neck, that sucked. Business and skateboarding never mix. Anything involving a business decision and skateboarding has been pretty lame, like trying to work with Mike V. on a company called TV. When that dissolved, it was really sucky.
Have you ever put Transistor Sect in an art show? Or is he too lowbrow?
(Laughs) I’ve always wanted to keep a little bit of a separation between them, because at the beginning, people would see an Ed Templeton art show and walk in expecting skateboards on a wall, Transistor Sect drawings and things like that. So, I was like, “That’s not what I want to do.” I always kept it separate as a point. You have to be careful with people because they love to categorize, so I felt like if I did that, I’d just be seen as an illustrator or some guy who runs a skateboard company who does art shows.
Ed Templeton provides the artwork for a Transistor Sect tattoo during a signing at Underworld skate shop in Vancouver on June 20, 2009.
One thing that ties your Toy Machine ads and art shows together is the squiggly word balloons.
Yeah, that’s for sure, but they’re kind of different from each other. The Toy Machine graphics are flat, comic book-style stuff that are based on a line drawing as the main skeleton.
How did Transistor Sect get started?
It started out of laziness. I was drawing comic strips making fun of people in the tour van. I’d take one of my riders, like Jerry Fowler, and draw a comic strip about him fucking his mom. The strips were really gross, something we’d pass around in the van and laugh at as a joke. I had fun doing it, so I was like, “I’m going to make a recurring character.” But, if you draw frame after frame, it gets tedious, so I wanted to draw a simple character. So, the Transistor Sect’s formation came from pure laziness. He has one eye, because it’s quicker to draw one eye than two. He has claw hands, because fingers are way harder to draw than a stupid claw hand. The snork was just thrown in there because it was easy, too. Transistor Sect is basically just a circle with an eye, and everything about him is really rudimentary.
I started Toy Machine in 1993 with Vision, but by 1994, I had taken it over to Tum Yeto. Around that time, I was drawing those comics and they started appearing on the boards, too. I had been drawing before, too. I turned pro in 1990 and decided that I would draw all of my own board graphics. I wasn’t a good artist at all, I just wanted to do it because the pros I liked the most—Chris Miller and Mark Gonzales—did their own graphics. I thought, “That’s cool. If I’m going to be a pro, I’m going to do that, too.” But, I didn’t fancy myself an artist at that point, I just wanted to do it. I liked drawing, but I wouldn’t have said I’m an artist and deserving of it. My first New Deal ad said, “Buy Ed Templeton’s board—the one with the crappy graphics,” because I knew it was shitty. What I was doing, compared to the fully refined John Lucero “Joker busting out of jail” graphics, looked like a pre-schooler drew it.
Ed Templeton rips the training facility, 2009.
How long do you plan to stay pro with a Toy Machine deck?
I try to retire every year, but Tum Yeto won’t let me. I guess I could just make the decision and do it—Toy Machine is my company--but when I look at the business sheet, my board still sells the most. It’s ridiculous. I have these guys like Billy Marks, Leo Romero, and Nick Trepasso doing all of this amazing stuff and getting coverage in the mags every month, yet somehow I still sell more boards than them. I can’t explain it. So, it doesn’t make good business sense to retire my board, even though I’m way suckier than those guys.
Are you and Deanna getting divorced? There’s a rumor going around.
No, I’ve never even heard of it until just now. That’s not true.
What was the cowboy hat all about? I saw an old photo of you and Deanna going at it while wearing one.
Deanna used to wear fashion hats with flowers on them everyday. Oh, wait. Was nudity involved? Is it the photo where she’s holding a boner? I had an art show in New York in 1998. We drove the artwork out there in a mini-van and stopped in Tennessee. We walked around shopping in Nashville and found a cowboy hat. Then we shot photos of us having sex with the cowboy hat on all the time, so one of them must have ended up being published somewhere.
Oh, I thought maybe you had some odd cowgirl fetish or something. I looked at your Deformer book and read the part about when you were around eight and your dad suddenly left, abandoned your family, and you never heard from him again. I was wondering if the doorbell rang now, you looked through the peephole and it was your dad, what would you do?
I talked about this recently with my grandfather, my mom and my brother. The whole dad thing affected my brother a lot more. He’s actually tried to find our dad. Every once in a while, he’ll type our dad’s social security number into a web site that will indicate he’s still alive. We found out that he lives in Georgia somewhere, maybe Atlanta. I think he might have other kids now. The thing is, I don’t have anything to say to him, so it’s not even interesting to me. Some people ask, “Wouldn’t you want to talk to him and ask him why he left?” I understand why. He left for a 16-year-old girl when he was 40-something. My mom had mental difficulties, so I don’t think his life was idyllic, and I could possibly see why he might want to bust out. I can get into his shoes on that level and give him that much.
But, would you answer the door?
Yeah, I’d answer it, but I would think about it, because most likely if he’s coming to visit me, he either wants to borrow money or kill me.
What if he just wants to talk?
I would talk to him, but I don’t have anything to say to him. That’s the thing--it would be boring to me, to tell you the truth. I’d have to do it to be nice. I’d be like, “Let’s go have dinner and we’ll talk.” I guess I have a little interest on some level, like, “What have you been doing?” That would be interesting for me to find out, like, “What happened when you left?”
Ed Templeton on the far right, rocking a McSqueeb, circa 1986.
I wonder if he feels remorse?
I don’t know. It must be weird to think you have kids out there doing stuff and you have no idea what. But, like I said, I’m happy. I never played the victim. I never said, “Dude, I was abused. My life’s fucked up,” or “I make art because I’m so tortured.” My family life was the same as almost everyone I knew. My dad wasn’t overly abusive. He was the same kind of dad most of my friends had. Almost everyone I know, their dad hit them. It’s not like he would break bones or I showed up to school with a black eye because of him. But, his leaving opened up the door for me to find skateboarding and be able to keep doing it. So, I view his leaving as a big turning point in making me who I am. Therefore, I’m happy with it. I got to do what I wanted to do. I’ve tried to think back on that time period, and I’ve realized he would have kicked my ass if I was skating and getting bad grades. He would have put a stop to that, so I wouldn’t have found skating and I wouldn’t have met all of the people that are involved in it--all of the creative types. Surrounded by photographers, artists and skaters, and getting to travel and see the world has made me the person I am, so I’m glad he left. I don’t want to talk to him. Everything’s great. So, there’s not really a sore spot there. My life turned out fine. I’m happy with where I am.
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