Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Toy Machine's Welcome to Hell - A Cultural Dissection

John Scharbach: A teen and his Toy Machine tees

On occasion, I like to interview my friends, ask them about a piece of media that had a particularly profound effect on them. Many of us got into hardcore through skate videos, and I don't know anyone who's a bigger Toy Machine fan than one John Scharbach, DC-based Nomad, GIVE frontman and Mosher's Delight layout guru. Here's John's track-by-track analysis of one of skateboarding's most important video artifacts, Welcome to Hell, and how it's impacted him today. [Note: All Song Titles contain links to corresponding Jump Off a Building video parts. Enjoy!]


by John Scharbach
I got into skateboarding around '94/'95 and was living in Tullahoma, TN at the time attending middle school and into seemingly normal things, I remember a new kid coming in from California halfway through my 6th grade year. He looked and acted completely different than everybody else and I remember his very first day there, he had on an alien workshop "believe" shirt and had a skateboard under his arm. He was a weird motherfucker but I became friends with him pretty quickly and wasted no time in dissecting his interests. He passed me an old CCS catalog and I quickly ordered shirts and a complete blank set up. It was all new and exciting and completely different than everything else I had really known at the time, just a little at first and then a little more and before I realized it, I got obsessed pretty quickly and I found myself in a skate shop in Nashville a few months later and the first video I buy is 411VM #16. I watched that video every day and began to really block everything else out. Toy Machine graphics were instantly attractive to me and I remember the first monster board in that CCS being the one I wanted but I couldn't afford it at the time. (It's still one of the only boards I would kill someone to own but nearly impossible to find now). Anything I got took weeks of begging towards my parents and I usually had to settle for the cheaper alternatives. I can't remember exactly how the video came into my life, but shortly after that 411 I got a hold of the Welcome to Hell VHS and that fucking thing totally flipped my world upside down. It was one of those moments in life when you experience something and quickly realize "this is me, this is exactly what I'm into, this is exactly how I feel".

Intro - LARD - The Power of Lard
I remember really being intrigued by this song and loving the bass. I had to get the local record store to order the cd for me, and when it came, the whole thing just confused me. Only three songs and one of them was 30 minutes long? What was happening here? The following album by Lard The Last Temptation of Reid is my favorite release of theirs and to this day this band still feels really weird. Funny to think I heard and appreciated Lard before I ever heard a Dead Kennedys song. I love the huge gap Maldonado tries at the end of this intro, he seems to tumble just perfectly like it was a planned bail. Grace in destruction.

Mike Maldonado - THE MISFITS - London Dungeon
"Mike Maldonado…east coast powerhouse" and then that drum and bass into that guitar riff and the backside 50-50…fuck, that will forever be burned into my memory as a total game changer. This is the very first Misfits song I ever heard and obviously you don't realize the importance and effect things have at the time, but looking back I can honestly say it changed everything for me. I was attracted to the song immediately and it served as a spring board for me to explore the rest of what the misfits had to offer and punk and hardcore music in general. A good argument can be made that this part single handedly is responsible for where I am now. I bought [Misfits] Collection 1 on cd shortly after and The Misfits became my favorite band. I was obsessed, taking pictures of myself with bone gloves and devil locks and all that shit. I eventually kept digging and found Minor Threat and Gorilla Biscuits and the rest is history. This was an amazing part to lead off with. Mike just did everything bigger than everyone else, he really helped to introduce the Toy Machine style and aesthetic. The first division ad of Mike ollieng the wall from bench looks photoshopped but this video provided the proof that it was entirely real. I watched this part so many fucking times I can probably tell you every trick by memory. I really liked that he ended his part with that long 50-50 into a sketchy landing. Great fade out.

Elissa Steamer - THE SUNDAYS - You're Not the Only One I know
This song didn't really make an impression on me at the time, I just always felt like it fit Elissa's part really well. I thought her section had a lot of style and while none of the tricks included were insanely tech or crazy big, I thought she put together a very creative part. She used Janis Joplin in her next section which was the first time I ever heard that too. I got into The Sundays a lot later in life, I guess I just wasn't ready at the time. [Editor's Note: Elissa skates the majority of this part in Adidas Shelltoes which deserves mention]

Tour Montage - VAN HALEN - Im the One
Love this montage but always associated this song with the movie Airheads because it plays during a section in that flick, except its a cover version by the band Four Non-Blondes. I really love how Jamie [Thomas] edited this video and you could tell he was thinking on a different level than skate videos that had come before. Tricks and landings were specifically edited to flow with the song and to compliment certain drum hits and guitar riffs. It really created a new vibe.

Brian Anderson - PINK FLOYD - Another Brick in the wall pt 2
This was another song that I had heard before seeing this vid but would forever associate it with this section after seeing it. Brian Anderson came out of nowhere with this part and immediately made an impression. In his Epicly Later'd part he explains how he was an unknown who hadn't taken skateboarding seriously in a few years to finding himself skating with Jamie, Ed, Chad, and Donny and blowing them away with his talent. Frontside Blunt at hub hideout, what a crushing debut skate section.

Satva Leung -OVERTON BERRY EMSEMBLE - Superstar
An instrumental jazz piece that was way over my head at the time. I never thought about this song beyond just thinking it fit Satva's style. He had skated to "every little thing she does is magic" in the previous Toy video Heavy Metal and I was always a fan of his. He seemed to fall off after this video only popping up here and there in magazine ads.

Friends section - JEFFERSON AIRPLANE - Somebody to Love
I feel like I had maybe heard this song before this, but obviously it's inclusion here made it an instant favorite. My brain is constantly switching between images of Welcome to Hell footage and Jim Carrey belting this out in the cable guy whenever I hear the song now. Skate videos just had that magic power. I still listen to songs to this day from skate videos and imagine the tricks being done from when I first heard the specific songs.

Donny Barley - BLACK SABBATH - Meglomania
What a criminally underrated part. That smith through the kinked rail at the beginning with a cigarette in hand is so sick. Beyond "iron man" and probably "war pigs", this is the first time hearing Black Sabbath, and after exploring, realizing this song was on the same album as the song "Thrill of it all" that was used in the zero commercial right before Donny's part. I liked them at the time, but Black Sabbath would be a band I grew to appreciate in different ways later on. A person's relationship with Black Sabbath is probably always in a constant state of evolution. The slow motion 180 smith grinds to close out Donny's part was one of the most stylish things in this video

Ed Templeton - SONIC YOUTH - Titanium Expose
This is the very first time I ever heard Sonic Youth and I loved this song but didn't end up really exploring the band until years later. Checking into Sonic Youth always overwhelmed me because the discography was so huge, I had no idea where to start. Coincedentally Ed used a Sonic Youth song for his part in the next Toy Machine video "Jump of a Building" too, the song "Mote" which was also from Goo. And when I was ready for Sonic Youth, thats the exact album I started with. In the very first Toy vid in '94 he used a Rites of Spring song during his part and again used Rites of Spring for the intro to Jump off a Building in '98 but there was no way I was capable of absorbing that at the time. I personally think this is the best part of Ed's career, there were so many rails and he got really creative with exits from tricks and overall selection. His whole part has a real urgency to it also, like he is just pushing his ass off the entire time.

Jamie Thomas - IRON MAIDEN - Hallowed be thy Name
This was and is my favorite section of this video and the song and skating seem to be made for each other. I can't listen to this song and not envision that brooklyn banks line with misfits shirt, green cargo pants, and sockless sal 23's. This whole part absolutely crushed me and turned me into an instant Jamie Thomas worshipper. I remember begging my mom to buy me Iron Maiden albums and borrowing "Fear of the Dark" on cd from a friend of my dads after this. I quickly devoured "Number of the Beast", "Powerslave", and "Somewhere in time" shortly after. I wanted to wear and listen to anything that Jamie Thomas did so getting the co-sign on the misfits with him wearing the shirt ensured my love for them and there was no way I was not gonna be a ZERO fan after this. Jamie bailing on Toy and starting up ZERO shortly after this video bums me out looking back, but at the time I loved everything that was happening. When the Thrill of it All video came in '97, I can't even begin to explain how many times I rewound and watched Erik Ellington's part. I never had MTV growing up so that was the first time I ever heard "Mother" by Danzig and paired with that small part, it floored me. I think there is literally 10 tricks total and the most technical thing Erik does is a 360 flip, but that line in the beginning in the parking lot where it slows down as he ollies that double set right when Glen says "gonna take your daughter out tonight", that was a perfect moment. I know a few of the spots in Jamie's part were filmed in Chicago, especially the beginning where it shows him pushing across that bridge with all the flagpoles. My friend who I continued getting into skateboarding with in Fayetteville, NC and who was a huge Toy Machine fan would visit his mom in Chicago every summer and I went to visit him in chicago the summer after this video came out and we would wake up everyday and go out and skateboard around the city and across that bridge everyday. There is also a frontside 180 over a sign and some bushes later on in jamie's part that we found in chicago and it had the smallest most insane run up, like there was no way for us to even attempt to push towards that gap. Seeing those types of things really made me realize how beyond professional skateboarders were.

Bail section - D.R.I. - Do the Dream
I loved this part and for some reason never really looked into this song. I just associated this part and this song together and didn't think much about it. D.R.I. has always been a band that has seemed really cool and I like a lot of the art and vibe surrounding them, but to this day, I never listen to them or even think about listening to them. It just never clicked with me completely. I think of D.R.I. and I think of the slumlord comic shirt, love that thing.

Chad Muska - NAPPY ROOTS - Right Now
This part was obviously not in the original VHS release and Chad was kicked off/quit the team on the night of the video premier which has all been well documented. I've always loved Chad but never thought he was as amazing as he was treated. I know it was rumored that he was supposed to have the final part of the video and that seems like a joke because Jamie's epic four minute plus section would have completely overshadowed it. I didn't see this part until way later when it was included on the DVD release. Very stylish and creative section but the song didn't do anything for me.

Credits - SANTANA - Samba Pa Ti
A perfect way to end the video, a super long 50-50 in slow motion with the credits rolling over it. The rail that Jamie grinds for this was also in chicago near a park that we found at midnight on one of our outings. We got a hold of a Santana cd during that chicago trip and had a short love affair with it. Music came and went and tastes changed so fast at that time. Everything seemed to move way faster.

"Jump off a Building" followed in '98 and I had so much anticipation for that video, it was insane. I loved and still love that video to this day. I think it was a great follow up and the trio of Bam, Kerry, and Mike really helped further the Toy team after Jamie left. The first video "live", wasn't as focused as the videos that followed, but the trio of "heavy metal"(95), "welcome to hell"(96), and "jump off a building"(98) was the perfect showcase of skate video evolution. Even after Jamie left, JOAB had a very distinct personality and feel to it. After nearly the whole team folded and no one was left by '99, I was already moving on to other things in my life and Toy Machine's future was uncertain. Great things aren't meant to last forever.

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1 comment:

  1. John...great stuff. I think what Temp did with Toy Machine, the overall aesthetic (including his art career), informed a lot of what that small generation would become interested in beyond skateboarding.

    Didn't know you came up in Tennessee. I was a four-hour drive away from you in Memphis (admittedly the other side of the world if you talk to anyone in Tennessee). I don't have to tell you or wax on about how small and tight-knit skating was in that part of the country. A major new skate video like Welcome to Hell was like an EVENT for us ne'er-do-wells . We'd gather at a friend's upstairs playroom (read: Nintendo room) with snacks (probably fucking Dunkaroos the icing of which still likely lines my large intestine) and watch completely enthralled.

    And I'm with you on the Jamie-worship at the time. I remember watching him in the Invisible video doing his lines with bleached hair, looking so cool. When he shaved his head, I shaved mine (my mom was so was great). When I found out he and Templeton were vegan too (Jamie at the time anyway), it was a nice morale boost. If I remember correctly, JT shot and edited these famous vids as well.

    And Ed Templeton...If forced to list a top twenty of most influential people on my life, he gets a spot. I'm almost certain the layouts of his ads, the deck art, and t-shirt designs qualified much of what I had already been gravitating toward; skateboarding and art as the perfect marriage. I wear the dude's shoes as if they were Jordans. Nike has a skate shoe, of course, a notion that would have made us all cringe watching Welcome to Hell in that playroom.