Innovative, courageous, original: Kilian Martin sets new standards in the world of skating. We joined forces with him and filmmaker Brett Novak to create his next video "Kilian Martin: Altered Route". See it here first!
“Have you heard the one about the American, Spaniard and German stuck in the desert?“ What may sound like the beginning of a bad joke is actually the first tweet sent off by director and editor Brett Novak as we head into the Mojave Desert to film the much-anticipated new Kilian Martin video entitled "Altered Route". Click on "movie" to see the result of our collaboration above!
Kilian Martin is the punk of skating. Not that it’s obvious. As we meet over breakfast with common friends in Long Beach, he’s easy going, instantly likeable and brimming with ideas and enthusiasm. Yet behind the pleasant facade there is a focused, fearless and sometimes annoyingly persistent athlete who refuses to be pigeonholed. Criticised at times by other skaters for his cross-disciplinary and dance-like style, the 24-year old Oceanside resident, who originally hails from Madrid, invariably stays true to his own principles. “When I skate, there is just me and my board. I couldn’t care less about pre-defined categories and styles. It is only skateboarding – and I do what I enjoy.“
Thanks to this nonconformist attitude – and his exceptional talent – the former gymnast has won the admiration and support of veteran colleagues like Stacy Peralta, George Powell or Mike Vallely. Peralta calls Martin “the most impressive skater I’ve seen in decades” and admits he had to laugh when he saw Kilian’s first video because his moves “are so complicated and he pulls them with beautiful ease. He’s such an innovator and he’s so damn original.“
Millions of YouTube fans seem to agree. Together with cameraman and editor Brett Novak (“Skate Regeneration”), he has already published three videos. Self-financed, of course, as Brett – also 24-years old and currently living in Culver City – wants to retain full control of his own creations. Both artists share a love of detail, a determination not to repeat themselves - and a strong perfectionist streak, as I am about to discover.
As we leave LA to drive to our two-day mb! video shoot in the Mojave Desert with a beautiful 450 SL from 1980 in tow, Kilian reviews pages of notes covering new skating moves while torturing us with hours of non-stop oldies from the 50s. He’s twitching like a racehorse, ready for take off. Later, I watch for hours from the sidelines as he repeats his newly designed tricks tirelessly until both athlete and director are 100 percent happy with the results. Or, rather, until the sun disappears and the derelict former water park is bathed in the pale glow of a spectacular full moon, making it too dark to film. Perfectionists, like I said.
Back at the hotel after a Mexican dinner, we finally get round to our interview session while Brett is on the phone outside the door. Not a skater myself, I have to approach the topic from more familiar territory.
You surfed when you were a kid. Was surfing your first love?
Yes. When I first stood up on my body board, my parents bought me a surfboard. But Madrid is far away from the seaside so eventually I started skating.
Surfing to me is being alone with an element of nature. What is skating to you?
It’s just about me and my board - like a relationship. To me, it is also a form of art. For many skaters it is all about competing. I see myself both as an athlete and an artist.
And you design a lot of your moves on paper. How was preparing for this shoot different to other times?
I always have a picture in my mind – just like a painter has a motif in his mind - and then it is just a matter of finding the spot to realise the picture. Here, we didn’t quite know what we would find and I had to be a lot more flexible – it was an exciting task!
Describe the location today in three words.
Seriously very impressive (laughs).
Seriously, the visual results are amazing – I can’t believe how beautiful the landscape is!
Was it interesting enough in terms of skating?
Yes, because it’s not street skating, it’s finding some unexpected obstacles in the middle of the desert.
Where do your ideas and inspiration come from?
They come from something I have seen before that I then connect to something new. I might see a trick on flat ground, so I try it on an obstacle, which in turn gives me more time in the air to flip the board once more when I drop off somewhere.
Is it thinking outside the box?
No, it is more about taking something that exists and developing it further. Take, for example, the cartwheel on the skateboard. Once I was able to stop for a second on my tail to stop for a cartwheel…now there is way to flip the board with my hands.
Are you trying to convey a message with your skating?
I skate the way I do because I am being honest with myself, with my influences, with my past. There is not a right or wrong way to skate, as long as you have fun doing it. We are all in the same team.
You and Brett have once again chosen a Patrick Watson song for the video. What do you like about his music?
Patrick just knows how to give you goose bumps with his music. I love closing my eyes and listening to the story he tells. It’s like the child in me comes out and brings memories back to life. He is my favorite artist.
Talking about children: what advice would you give younger skaters?
The industry wants you to skate a certain way and young kids are influenced by that and by that they limit themselves. I don’t care about what category I am skating. It is just skateboarding. So my advice would be: do whatever feels right. Criticism is a good thing. It helps you evolve and spurs you on. At the same time, you need to focus on what you enjoy and not on what others expect of you. If you do this, you can achieve what you want.
What did you study?
I studied Marketing and some Graphic Design, which eventually got too much between skating and working to support my mum.
It’s probably a useful background for your brand new venture?
Kilian Clothing – yes. We are designing retro style t-shirts, shirts and later jackets. I have given it my name and I am providing artistic direction.
You are clearly confident in your own physical abilities – how do you train?
I skate a good amount of hours. I find going to the gym boring but I still like surfing and gymnastics. That’s all I need to keep me fit.
You travel a lot these days. What’s your ultimate dream vacation?
I don’t have one yet as I haven’t found the right person to do that trip with.
If you could invite four people for dinner (dead or alive), who would you invite?
Bruce Lee, Patrick Watson, Sean Astin and Pat Morita.
What's the first thing you do in the morning?
Check emails, switch on music and eat cereal.
Describe yourself in five words.
Enthusiastic, dedicated, energetic, persistent, nostalgic.
At this point, Brett Novak walks in, swearing away in endearing Irish fashion after an awkward phone call. Also a skater, he and Kilian met at a competition. He was beaten by him then – a good thing, I think, now that the roles are clearly defined and the results are equally satisfying. Brett still gets plenty of exercise as he films while following his subject on his skateboard. He’s the better communicator and happy to join in to the conversation.
What do you think is the secret of your joint success?
Kilian: We both love being original, and we both are obsessed with detail.
Brett: In terms of skater films we are artistic rebels. Although our stuff isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, it is certainly not the norm. Every once in a while, people leave comments like “I don’t want to see autumn leaves blowing in the wind” but it is precisely this artistic approach that has given us a larger audience. When Kilian does a handstand on two boards in front of a great backdrop, he also captivates the mainstream.
So you’ve taken skating to the mainstream?
I think the mainstream has taken our skating to the mainstream and we just recognised that.
My sentence sounded better.
Mine was a little more humble (laughter – and humble he really is). Incidentally, we brought skating to the mainstream. That was not our intention. When we did our first video “Skate Escalation” we… (like one half of an old couple, Kilian finishes the sentence) we just wanted to do a really cool video. We did it for ourselves, out of our own pocket.
Brett: Because we like full creative control. The more people get involved, the less satisfying it gets.
Well, thanks for taking me along anyway…do you ever have arguments?
We are first and foremost business partners that happen to get along. We’re not in love, so that helps (laughs). We are together 24/7 on shoots and then we don’t see each other for months.
Do you have to be a good skater to film a good skater?
Brett: It helps for sure. The style that I film is a very different approach to what others do who use a fisheye (a type of lens). They point, wish themselves luck and they get the whole image where everything looks bigger. I don’t have the fisheye, which allows me to be more creative. Kilian likes to skate creatively, I like to film creatively.
How do you feel about this new video compared to the others?
Kilian: I feel happy to see how far we've come since "Escalation". I think this video really expresses the passion that we have for what we do. We drove ourselves into being storytellers, to hopefully inspire people. To me skateboarding is powerful. It makes me feel all kind of things. After watching this video you can easily tell that I really love to skate.
Kilian: We have a project in Austria coming up.
Brett: We want to keep pushing ourselves artistically. That is why we were so excited about this location and the car, as it is so different to what we normally do. You forced us to be more creative!
Good! Thank you both. It’s been great fun.
Check out the result – the new video "Kilian Martin: Altered Route" by Brett Novak for mb! by Mercedes-Benz - as well as photos from the shoot by clicking into the image above.
Kilian Martin: www.kilianmartin.net
Brett Novak: www.brettnovak.com
Music by Patrick Watson and the Wooden Arms: www.adventuresinyourownbackyard.com
DeVende Photography: www.devendephotography.com
Special thanks to:
Brandon Baldwin and Darren Dyk, Phantom Camera Operation (check out their YouTube channel!)
Mercedes-Benz USA Classic Center in Irvine - Constantin in particular
Veronica, Jonathan, Marissa, Japheth and Ruben
29 May 2012