The Chrome Ball interview
If there could be such a thing as a skateboarding encyclopedia, The Chrome Ball Incident is it. Meticulously curated, Chrome Ball is a website that should be daily viewing material for anybody that cares about the history of skateboarding and its culture. A collection of past ads and editorial, Chrome Ball covers skateboarding from the big '80's to the present. Eric Swisher, aka Chops, is the man behind Chrome Ball. After 25 years of skateboarding, he's suddenly found himself immersed in the industry, interviewing his idols and producing something that a lot of people, some in high places, care about.
When did you start Chrome Ball? What prompted you to do it and had you been blogging before that?
No, I'd never blogged before. I actually used to make fun of blogs, to be honest. I started it in April of 2008, because I remember looking online for old skate ads I'd seen growing up. Specifically, there was that one Gino Ianucci 101 ad where he's lighting a cigarette with a $20 bill. That was one I looked for, and I couldn't find it. I was like, "That kind of sucks." It's kind of nerdy, but I thought, these things need to be out there. I started Chrome Ball because there were things I wasn't seeing, so I wanted to put them out there.
For those that really have no idea what the name is about, can you explain The Chrome Ball Incident?
The Chrome Ball Incident was a comic strip that Neil Blender used to come up with every now and then. It was a three-panel comic strip and the chrome ball would come through and just smash something. [As far as the site goes] I was trying to think of something to name it, like an old skate reference. At first it was gonna be, there was this old Quim Cardona ad for Real and it was called "Blood, sweat and lampshades," But I thought that was too cryptic. For some reason I thought "Chrome Ball Incident" was so much more obvious, and I was completely wrong.
When did things with the site really start picking up, when it started to seem like more than a small-time project?
The response was pretty immediate, as far as like, "Holy s**t, this guy is looking at it?" I remember my first month doing it, Andy Stone and Andy Jenkins both left comments on there. From that point on it became real for me. People were paying attention and if I was going to put it out there, I was going to have to answer for the things that I wrote. That's one reason Chrome Ball never got snarky. I've never tried to be like, "This guy sucks." There's a good possibility that that person is going to email me, and I'm going to feel like a douchebag.
How'd you decide to start doing interviews on the site?
I was getting that shoe on Nike, and it was along the lines of insecurity because I figured, if I'm getting this shoe I should up the game with the site. I wanted to add another dimension to it and I think it was a natural progression for the site as well.
Have you ever caught yourself fanning out on any of the guys you've interviewed?
I've tried to keep a good poker face. Essentially, after I talked to Gino on the phone, I pretty much felt like I could talk to anybody on the phone.
How often do you rely on other people for scans, or are the majority of them straight out of your magazine collection?
They're all from mine, unfortunately.
On that note, how did you keep up such a magazine collection over the years?
I had a good chunk at my parent's house. After Chrome Ball [started], I took it more serious and I'd pick some off eBay, just to fill in the gaps. Not all of those are my original magazines.
Lately you've been supplying images to a lot of skateboard media. Who have you been working with?
I've been helping out Epicly Later'd for a while, ever since their Gino documentary. I've worked with Skateboarder magazine and Already Been Done, too. I've helped out Jake Rosenberg with this Danny Way thing he's doing.
What's your involvement like with Already Been Done?
Already Been Done is in its infant phase, but I guess I'm going to try to do an interview in every issue. It's really kind of nice because with Chrome Ball it's just me in Pittsburgh, another planet, essentially. Working with Rob Brink has been nice to get some feedback. We've got a bunch of interviews lined up and that's definitely a good thing.
For what it's worth, you've experienced sudden success in the skateboard game. Is the skate nerd's dream all it's cracked up to be?
It's something I can look back on and be like, "I did that. That's something worth while." It's a lot of work, but I'm just real stoked with the opportunity. I never would have thought in my life that this would have opened the doors that it has. There's no way at all that I should've been able to design a shoe or been able to meet the people that I have, or given them questions and they actually take the time to answer. I'm definitely thankful. I appreciate skateboarding that much more. I'm just happy.
How far does this blog go? Does the Chrome Ball Incident ever end?
The thing with Chrome Ball is that I'm so paranoid about taking it too far ... it was actually supposed to have ended five times over. I'm not gonna jinx it. I don't want to get to the point where it's just dudes that no one really cares about. I don't want to do that to the site. I always think it'll end in a couple months, but I've been thinking that for the last year and a half. I've abandoned the deadline thing and it'll be over when it's over.