Gil Scott-Heron, The Banks and the devil

A pioneer of hip hop in a Last Poetical sense, possibly a prophet, period, Gil Scott-Heron seems to be sometimes summed up to The Revolution Won’t Be Televised, or to his propension to be a jailbird. Oh well. Maybe subscribe to Wax Poetics first to grasp the whole package, and the true musical innovator Gil, now 60, has always been.

When you’re done, you’ll realize how big of an event it was that a new album of his, I’m New Here, just dropped this week -after a 15 year-long dry spell.

More importantly as far as skateboard circles are concerned, it’s accompanied by probably the best skateploitation video since Sonic Youth’s in 1989,  a real chef d’oeuvre by Coodie&Chike, but also high-profile photographer/director Michael Sterling Eaton who decided to disguise a bunch of skateboarders as night/zulu warriors and have them cruise around Brooklyn Banks in the unsurprisingly gritty ambiance that would fit a tune called Me And The Devil. Think Saturday Night Live intro’s bleak and suicidal little brother. Macho taildrop, then this? Damn. What are the masses going to think now? That skateboarding isn’t this cheezy, quick-buck farce anymore? Be more careful, guys.

Metaphysical questions aside, how did that come about? Here’s the co-director’s take on this truly amazing project.

Do you come from a skateboarding background at all?

MSE: Yes I do,  I was a jock but where I grew up in San Diego it’s just what everyone did. You wore vision hightops and skated after school with your friends.

Once I began to get into photography and film making i started to shoot my friends skate and  then eventually directed my first film for Osiris -where I met Jay Adams for the first time and worked a bunch with him. Even though it was a surf film for their surf team I was around the skate team and skate philosophy all the time.  I’ve shot skate campaigns for Billabong’s skate team and scored the music for their skate teams web videos. After that I was producing music with the Ice Cream guys, Terry, Cato and Kevin.

I’d never claim I’m skate though because I’m not and it’s such a core unit of real guys who bleed for it but its always been a part of my life in one way or the other. I have a deep respect for it!

How did the idea to use skateboarders in it come about?

MSE: Gil has been one of my all-time favorite artists for the past 15 years and it always bummed me out when I’d talk about him and alot of my peers weren’t familiar with his music. He is the original MC, the godfather of rap music! Nowadays hip hop/rap is pop, it is the largest music genre and without Gil a lot of it might not have existed. So I wanted kids to know that and start listening to his music!

So, with the internet kids looking for skate vids and dope new content, my idea was to incorporate the youth and the youth movement into Gil’s video.

Were the photos existing before the video, or were these characters created especially for the video?

MSE: The photos were shot the night of the video shoot. The characters were painted just for this video. I was hanging out at Damon Dash’s creative factory/gallery DD 172 and happened to be hanging with Jon from Certified skateboards. We started talking about skating and turned out we had a bunch of mutal friends so I asked him if he’d want to be a part of this video and if he could get some of his boys to come skate with us.

At first like most real skate dudes he was hesitant to be apart of something he knew nothing about, plus he had never heard of Gil. I told him that he was a LEGEND and had to asure him that I’d never compromise the integrity of thskatboarding and Gil’s own brand of core!

Who are the skaters in this?

There were a few up and coming kids in NYC who love to skate and were super cool. Jon Lodge (Certified Skateboards),David “50” Brown (Zoo York), Jamel Marshall (Certified skateboards), Darryl Westly (Certified), Larry Schmidt (Autobahn wheels). The shooting just took one night… a few hours. The make-up took longer than the skating. We shot it at the Banks, which was cool!

Why having chosen to disguise skaters as “night warriors”? Any message you wanted to convey besides the graphic factor alone?

MSE: The devil is real and demons are all around us at all times. It’s just if we see them or not. So I wanted them to be skating around the city looking for Gil. It’s like an updated Warriors for our generation, that’s what everyone tells me.

Have you watched any music videos in the past with skateboarding in them that struck you at all? Which ones, if any?

MSE: Pharrell has always done a great job with it and always incorporates the lifestyle in his videos. He’s had a few. Snoop does also. He usually has Terry in his vids and I respect that!

Like KRS-One said, skateboarding should be a 6th element to hip hop and I think so too. It’s street, its real and it’s done by real people. Let’s hope it stays that way for both skate and hip hop. Hopefully this video has introduced kids and adults to Gil Scott-Heron’s music, and likewise introduced and gave validity to skating for the older generation of Gil Scott-Heron fans. It’s a win-win for both!

(Special mercis to Virginie at Nouvelle Vague for the hook-up, and to Bertrand Trichet for being a good watchdog)

The video, by the way :


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5 Responses to “Gil Scott-Heron, The Banks and the devil”

  1. gil scott-heron’s me and the devil: interview with director michael sterling « cooperate in the making of reason Says:

    […] here is an interview with the director, michael sterling eaton Blogroll […]

  2. lucien Says:

    This is so rad.

    I first read about Gil Scott-Heron in Thrasher, like 15 years ago.

    Skateboarding always knows the coolest.

    Super good blog.


  3. styrofoam Says:

    who is the man in the black top hat and white makeup doing the falling down dance between the skates and gil????

  4. Gil Scott-Heron – “Me and the Devil” Director | The Extinction of Geometry Says:

    […] (Feature & Interview w/ MSE via Kingpin ace, Seb Carayol – A Visual Sound) […]

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