January 23, 2023

Dialectic: Alex Lopez

Trevor Crowell: Alex, what’s been going on lately? Catch me up!   Alex Lopez: As far as myself, I’ve just been focusing on scootering, my family, work and school, all at the same time. It’s been pretty good so far. I’m in my second to last semester at Cal State Northridge, and I’m doing business marketing. I’m going to be graduating in the Fall so I have about six more classes to take. I only took three this semester so the load has been pretty light; it’s given me a lot more free time to learn other things. I’m learning a lot but it’s not necessarily all in school right now, and then riding has been great!   TC: You initially grew up in Thousand Oaks. I feel like the time when you started riding was right in the midst of a really happening LA scooter scene with people going there to film videos and putting out these LA-centric parts that didn’t continue for too long after. Now, I think we’re seeing a rise in that again, but what was your experience growing up there?   AL: Growing up in Thousand Oaks, it’s about 50 minutes north of Downtown LA. And it’s a very different pace of life here versus Downtown. It’s pretty quiet for the most part. I definitely missed out on the LA scene when I was starting scootering. Because all those videos, like when Phase 2 was popping off and they were doing street jams, I was so localized because I didn’t drive until I started riding with Issac Padilla. I met Issac through my friend Cameron Poe, and he was kind of the gateway into LA because he was in the San Fernando Valley and he has always been riding in LA. Through him I started getting out of the area. Before Kinetic, there was BFCM, which was Issac’s group, per se. I was the young one in that group—almost everyone was at least 2-3 years older than me—so when they started going out to ride LA initially, my Mom wouldn’t let me for the most part. I would have to convince her and be back home by 6 pm, basically cramp everyone’s style [laughs], so a lot of the time they couldn’t take me.    TC: I definitely had a similar experience. My parents were really lenient with me taking the train to go places, but I’m sure it was a difficult thing for them. Especially with the more traditional things that their kids might be into, they’re probably hanging around kids more their age, that they go to school with, whose parents they might have met. But in something like scootering, the age gap really means nothing if you’re invested enough in what you’re trying to do as far as filming a video part. It doesn’t matter if you’re 12 and hanging out with someone who’s 20 because the core ambition is the same. In scootering you’ll hang out with someone 6 years younger than you and 10 years older, and it’s completely normalized, but those on the outside might still meet it with suspicion. It’s a strange product of this culture and community, but it’s made for an interesting experience growing up.    AL: Exactly, and I see it from the perspective of my parents now, me being 14 and asking if I could go to downtown LA. Me—a 14-year-old that had never left Ventura County—that’s pretty wild [laughs]! “Well, what are you guys going to do?” “Oh, just ride around [laughs].” It sounds like such a mess [laughs], but it worked out.     TC: My first introduction to who you were was, in a way, through Cameron Poe. I had seen Cameron’s Scooter Zone video, and then found a video of you on his channel soon after. You must have been only 13-14, but I remember watching that video and seeing you do a triple tailwhip flat in a line and being so impressed! What do you remember from those days?   AL: I want to say that video came out in 2013, and Cameron filmed that for me on his little Canon handycam. The way I met Cameron was actually through his little brother, Adam, who was also scootering and was sponsored by Eagle and the Vault. From hanging out with Adam, I rode park and was doing buttercups and things like that, but I remember meeting Cameron and watching Proto Armageddon at his house with him and thinking, “This is sick, let’s do this!” So I ditched my Lucky Pry bars, got some T-bars and a District V2i—the best deck at the time—and I started going out riding with him and a BMX friend named Russell. We would just ride together all throughout Ventura County, but specifically Thousand Oaks, and that whole video is actually local spots, which is kind of crazy. That was that period of time which then led to BFCM and hanging out with Issac, who was the gateway to all the people in Santa Clarita and so on. I have a lot to thank Adam and Cameron, because they’re actually a big part of the reason why I’m on the Vault. I actually got on the Vault the first time I ever went to the shop. At the very end of 2013, maybe early 2014, Adam was sponsored by the Vault. And at the time, the Team Manager was Arthur Plasencia. I went to the shop with Cameron and Adam, and started talking with Arthur and eventually mentioned that I was on Scooter Zone at the time. I don’t think he ever even saw footage of me; I think it was just the idea that I was on a team and he was looking for people. He was like, “What do they get you at SZ?” And I told him, “Oh, I get a certain percentage off.” And he said “Well, at the Vault we treat you better.” And I said, “Okay, so do it.” And he was like, “Okay.” And I’m like, “Really?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” And I’m like “Cool.” And that was literally that [laughs].   TC: [Laughs] That’s amazing! Like I said, I had seen that video of you that Cameron made, and that was my introduction to your riding, but then I feel like I didn’t see that much coverage at all for a few years until I saw you doing the Madd Gear Flat Scoot Battles. I remember watching those and being so stoked that you were in them, not because of the contest itself, but because you were doing tricks that were so different from what everyone else was doing. I was inspired by the fact that you kept up with these “park tricks,” but were still doing things that were outside of that box, so to speak.   AL: Yeah! Me riding flat just started off kind of as a fluke. I’ve never been into the idea of huge air time, or hitting a huge kicker and floating in the air. And my local was kind of too far for me to ride to, and it would be hard to be driven there by my parents. But, in my front yard, there’s a slanted driveway, and I would use that to learn tricks. So I kind of just got really good at flat without realizing it, so when the Madd Gear Flat Scoot Battles got posted online, I filmed a 15-second video, sent it to them and they were like “Yeah, let’s do it.” That was the first time I’d ever been in the “spotlight,” so to speak. It was pretty crazy. I had to be driven down to the Megazone in Riverside, and I met all these riders. By that time I wasn’t really a park rider, so they weren’t riders I was looking up to, but just “Woah, you’re that guy. That’s crazy!” And they were looking at me like, “Who’s that?” It was a pretty sweet experience. Each one I can proudly say I beat at least one person!   TC: As you said, by this point in time you had started to ride street and weren’t a “park rider,” but I also think one thing that I really enjoy about your scootering today is that you display an array of tricks that is different than the average “street rider.” Was there a specific influence there, or was it more of a natural progression to where, once the terrain was figured out, you just kept doing those same tricks you had always done?    AL: I don’t really ride like my favorite riders. Whatever feels natural is what I’ll do for the most part. I just feel things out when I ride, like, “What feels right?”... I don’t even know how to put it…   TC: I think I know what you mean. There’s value in doing whatever you want because what we’re doing is inherently a mode of self-expression, but you inevitably run into the question of doing what feels natural and what feels right with the spot and the tricks I can do while working that into considerations of not only the best trick I can do but also the best trick I can do on the best spot. Is there a line between that self-expressive aspect of it, and doing whatever you want for the sake of doing whatever you want, and also taking the viewer’s experience into consideration, and thinking about what’s going to translate on film?   AL: My best friend Corey [Lane] and I both have… not a problem per se, but we have a tendency to work really hard for our footage. And, we’ve developed this habit where if we get [a trick] quite fast, we’re going to think, “Okay, no. I got that fast, let’s keep going with something else. Let’s keep trying.” If something takes an hour, two hours, that’s on the normal side of things; we really put work into everything we do. I see what you’re saying: sometimes something more simple is more beautiful, in a way. But the issue I have—which might be with myself and my confidence—is that I don’t really like my style when I’m doing simple tricks. I feel like I just don’t look as fluid as other people. And, for myself, I make up for it by trying something a little harder. I’ve never felt like I’ve been known for having great style, and so something I’ve always felt is “Okay, I have to do a little more.”   TC: I feel that way all the time. There are some tricks that I do, that I can do a simpler version of, and when I watch the footage and I think, “It’s perfect. It’s exactly what I wanted to do.” But then there are so many other times where I could watch someone else do that simpler version and think “That’s amazing. That’s exactly how it should be done,” but if I did it, I would have to do it differently because it just wouldn’t work. It’s not necessarily compensating for some lack of difficulty in what you’ve done, but it’s meeting your own standard when it doesn’t align with what you thought it was going to be. As much as you can try to be conscious about the tricks that you’re doing, the spots that you film at, every viewer’s interpretation will be different in a way that’s entirely subjective and beyond your control. And that’s what creates these scenarios: one’s in which you do something to the best of your ability but don’t get what you wanted out of it. You do it and immediately think, “It would have been so much better if someone else had done it.”    AL: Exactly.     TC: On the topic of riding with Corey, when, where and how did Kinetic begin, and what’s the origin behind the name?   AL: Pretty much everyone else in BFCM stopped scootering, and it left me and Issac. I started riding with Zach Poon, but even then I was on a bit of a hiatus, riding parks, not really going out as much. I’ve always known Corey; he from the town over and we rode skateparks together. I want to say we eventually all began riding together because we were the only people we knew who still scootered [laughs]. We were filming the whole time up until the beginning of Kinetic, but we were using a DSLR at the time. In 2018, Zach convinced me to buy an HMC150, and once I got that camera, I thought, “Well, why don’t we make a group? We’re all riding together already.” So it initially began with me, Corey [Lane], Julian [Lavelle], [Tyler] Bode, Carson [Davis], Blake [Hayward] and Frank [Montes]. As far as the name, prior to being a business major I went to school for biochem. I was in chemistry [class] one day and learning about Kinetic energy. There were two things: Kinetic and Inertia, and I was like “‘Kinetic: forces acting on a mechanism,’ that’s what we do on scooters!” When we finished the whole Kinetic video, I was like, “We never used Inertia,” so I used that for the second video. I’m thankful to say that everyone in Kinetic still scooters, and we all still have a passion to ride. We all go out every Saturday.    TC: The interesting thing about Kinetic, to me, is that I became deeply invested in scootering at a time when the idea of being in a crew was very in vogue. My beginning scootering coincided with this “crew revival;” crews had always existed before, but then around 2012 so many different crews began popping up. They were all these groups of friends bound not necessarily by a company or a shared sponsor, but more so by a shared interest. There was this prime slot for coverage of those crews that began to decline after around 2015 because people were getting older: they were going to college, entering the workforce. But I think the appealing thing about these crews was that the emphasis was on making full-lengths, specifically. This was at a time when Youtube had been established as the final medium even for company videos. There were exceptions for sure, but they were few and far between, so it was really interesting to see groups of friends putting in the same level of dedication to a project even without the financial and organizational resources that a company could provide. So, I’m interested in your influence for reviving that mentality, especially given that full-lengths seem like such a staple for Kinetic.   AL: The biggest inspiration actually came from when the first Breakfast video was made. That was my friend, Daniel Rey, who made it, and it made me realize that I could do it too. I knew Anton when he was making Hella Good Stuff, but it seemed like it was on an entirely different scale with the SD premiere and backing from Hella Grip and that sort of thing. But when Daniel made the Breakfast video, it was like “Okay, why aren’t we doing something?” From then on I was just pondering the idea of a crew, the name and what we were going to do. I had the camera at the time, and it became a whole learning from scratch process of filming, editing, everything. A lot of errors were made, but that’s the beauty looking back on it and thinking “Wow, if only I knew then what I know now...” I’m still probably going to think that a year from now!   TC: I remember attending the first Kinetic premiere, and even though by then we had become friends and I knew about several of the tricks in the video, watching it live was such a revelation because of the palpable energy and impact that putting that kind of work and dedication into a project inevitably produces. Especially in this time at which videos were (and still are) getting shorter and shorter —everything is becoming more digestible and easily comprehensible—I remember sitting in the audience and being so enthused by everything that was happening. I think a lot of people don’t really think their way through the fact that your output in scootering, whether it’s an Instagram video or a full-length, shapes the nature and the culture of the community they’re a part of. That impact could be subtle or monumental depending on the audience it has, but whichever it may be, it’s going to have some kind of influence on the way that scootering progresses and the direction in which it goes in the future. With creating a full-length, there needs to be a lot more intentionality and conscious thought about what you’re creating, and so I’m interested in your take not just on the value of that kind of production, but on your experience of that creative process as well.   AL: For full-lengths, of course, I make the videos for other people to see them. But it’s definitely also a documentation of all these memories between me and my best friends. And, to me, that means the world: being able to look back at it and think about how different those times were and everything that we were able to do, everywhere we were able to travel. Even just thinking about the friends section: all the friends that we’ve been able to meet and hang out with and connect with. Even people who don’t scooter anymore, we’re still connected, and sometimes friendships are raised through that process [of filming a full-length], and I just think that’s a beautiful thing. There is definitely a portion of that process that is really technical and really matters: the riding, the filming, the production behind it, but you have to start somewhere.     TC: Because full-lengths—something much more deliberate in their nature—are so important to what Kinetic represents, I think it would be interesting to hear your insight on the role of Instagram in scootering versus the role of more lasting media fixtures.   AL: The way I see Instagram is everything posted as far as scootering… 98 percent of the time it’s going to be forgotten about. When I see a clip on Instagram, I’m not going to remember what it was in an hour, let alone in five minutes. But if I see footage in a real part—I’m sitting down and really taking the time to watch a video part or a full-length—I’ll probably be able to take it all in, recite it back and remember almost every trick and be able to talk about it with anyone. So I feel that Instagram has been taken so seriously for the wrong reasons. It’s definitely the best marketing tool right now to get noticed; you post some crazy clip and try your hardest to get noticed, it’s like the new equivalent of [what used to be] going to a street jam and throwing down. I’m not going to say I don’t post on Instagram—I do—but my thing is that anything I post on Instagram is not going to be better than what’s in my part, ever. And, with Kinetic, there are no iPhone clips on Instagram anymore; I only post clips from my actual camera. Instagram is a tool that, whether we like it or not, from a business standpoint we have to get behind. But, I don’t agree with it, I don’t like it, and I’m not going to do what people are doing as far as posting crazy clips.   TC: Obviously you must think, consciously or unconsciously, that there is still value in full-length videos in not only the age of social media, but also the age of the “solo part.” What inspires you to keep producing them?   AL: Honestly at this point it’s kind of weird. I’m trying to work on a solo part right now but it’s so strange thinking about editing a four minute video as opposed to a 30 minute video; it’s just so much different. The reason why I made the second video—Inertia, which I initially wanted to make into a 15-minute video—into a full-length was because I got caught up in how fun it is to make videos with my friends. That was really it. Full-lengths are still so, so important, but when was the last time we saw a company make [one]? It’s been a while. And I get it: it’s really hard for a company to put money together in the scooter industry to do that. But, I think that means it’s up the crews in that sense. The Breakfast Crew working on their stuff, killing it. Priorities is coming out; that’s a masterpiece. But, I’d also love to see other crews come up and make full-lengths and set the standard for new places. There’re definitely more popping up in places that I didn’t even know had scooter riders.   TC: Obviously most of the people that form Kinetic as a collective are in their 20s and are either in college or in some kind of full-time job/career. I think, for a lot of scooter riders, that’s rarity because it’s hard enough to continue action sports of any kind the older you get, but especially in something like scootering where there just aren’t the financial resources to back even some of the most talented individuals, let alone anyone below the very highest of levels. So, it’s unusual to see so many people in their 20s, concentrated in one area, still aspiring to make these kinds of videos. Is that an organic thing, or is there someone keeping things motivated?   AL: I’m not sure if I’m the glue, there just has to be a filmer. But even if I stepped out, Bode would come in because he’s also filming and doing his thing. But for the most part I would say that I try to motivate people to ride; Saturday is our day because that’s the day I have off and I tell everyone else to do the same. I try to plan all the spots we go to, think about who can do what there and I, for the most part, try to organize things. But, of course, I have help. Eighty, maybe ninety, percent of the photos on the Kinetic Instagram are taken by Carson or Issac; they’re great photographers who help out a lot. Bode helps out as a consultant for anything I have questions with and helps with designs. Corey helps with animations. It feels like a team… I wish they could be my team. My dream would be to buy a Sprinter van and go around the country with all of them and somehow be able to pay everyone and myself. But, that’s just not where we’re at, so it must be organic. We do it because we love it; we love to make videos and see how it all comes out.  

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