Hello John. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and your skateboarding and musical history?
I was born and raised in Florida, the Sunshine State. It rains a lot though. More than here in Portland, how surprising. The hurricanes were fun too. My brother originally got me into skating almost ten years ago now that I think about it. I was always into music and I started getting serious about it in high school. I was in some bands and was also doing my own thing; teaching myself piano, drums, and guitar.
And after high school?
After high school I went to university in Florida and did a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. My concentration was painting, oils primarily. I should have gone for music but they payed me for art.
What's Tampa like by the way, is it fun during the pro and am contests?
Tampa, ew. Glad I’m out of that hell hole. It ain’t no place to be a man (laughs). The city goes on lockdown during the contests. I think I only went to a couple, I don’t much like contests. So crowded and busy and loud. The cops know about them too so they’re out there writing tickets and arresting kids. Remember in Modus Operandi when Rick Howard is in the cop car and raises his cuffed hands? That was Tampa. Tampa was the worst city as far as the cops go. I remember we were skating downtown on the sidewalk and a cop pulls up, stops us and says he could arrest us if he wanted. I asked “what if we’re using it for transportation?” “Get a bike,” he says.
Amazing. How is Portland different to Tampa?
Portland’s a bit different from anywhere else I’ve lived or traveled to in the States. It’s a very progressive place and that’s cool. But then with that, you also get the urban-white-kid-bohemian-ass-clown that shoves their life down your throat thinking they’re radical and a philosopher and all that garbage. And those are, for the most part, the ones who make music around here. And it’s quite awful to listen to as well; Too many gimmick’s. Then again, they do get publicity (laughs). Skate wise, Portland’s really cool. Most of the skaters are friendly and don’t mind divulging spots or make fun of the little mongo kid at the park doing bennis. The parks are outrageous, dreamland and grindline galore. Tranny heaven.
You make skate films as well, right?
Yes. It seems I kind of fell into the filming labyrinth. I made my first skate video in high school. I really wanted to document that time and those friendships. It’s great, I like filming. But I also love skating. In that sense, filming has kind of put an arrested development on my skating abilities. I used to be good! (laughs). So far I’ve made four skate videos, and I guess I’m always working on the next project. I’ve been toying around with making a new one and calling it “Forever Young.” I don’t know though. When I made “the opening” it was a serious project. Two and a half years of filming and eight months of editing. I don’t know if I have that in me again. Especially now with my music chewing away my time and it being stupidly cold in Portland. So I’ll always be filming and probably just throw stuff up on Youtube.
Sutherland prefers cold Portland to the warm "hell hole" Tampa any day.
What do you think about other skaters/filmers/photographers making music, such as Ray Barbee, Steve Cab, French Fred or Atiba.
I don’t really think of it as “skaters” making music. We’re all just people who operate along the same frames of mind. Skating is creative. It’s a natural outlet, just like music or art or writing or yes, even ballet. Why hasn’t anybody drawn the connection to skateboarding and ballet? Too gay? It’s a pretty obvious connection in my mind.
Is there, and if so: what is, the link between skateboarding and music?
Kind of similar to what I was saying before. But music is different because
music is the greatest art form there ever was, period, or full stop, depending on where you’re from. Speaking of French Fred, there was a recent clip on his site that made a song out of skate noises. Just the sounds of skating are amazing.
Would you prefer to be a professional filmer or musican?
Musician for sure. If life was only that simple!
Who are some of your favourite musicians, skaters, and filmers?
Leo Kottke has been the biggest influence on me musically. Lately I’ve been listening to John Fahey a lot. I also read Josh Harmony drop his name in a recent interview. He was a really rad person, invented the solo guitar basically. So thanks for that, John. Skatewise, I’d have to say Severin Von Ow, Justin Larson, Shea Wilcox, basically all my skate buddies. French Fred’s the best behind the lens in my opinion. Bon Appetit is my favorite video. The editing to it is insane, I couldn’t imagine what that was like to make.
By the way, what do you sing about?
I don’t sing too often. Most of my songs are instrumental, and I like that. Singing can get too complicated (politics, religion, personal subjection, etc). But if it’s just the music, it lets the listener evoke his or her own emotions. It’s more adaptable, and that does put some pressure on the listener as well. Commercially, I should probably take singing lessons (laughs).
Are you hoping to make a career out of making music or filming?
I would love to make a career out of something I love doing. How good would that be? More and more I realize I’m going to have to do that because work
sucks. Jobs and stupid people barking orders and annoying customers and all that. I can’t do it. So right now, I’m in music mode, trying to self-release this album and play as much as I can. Hopefully go on tour. That would be the life.
To check out more of Sutherland's music, go to:
John Sutherland on Myspace.
Exclusive world premiere (Right click and "save link as" to download):
John Sutherland - Never Trust A Man Who Travels With A Guitar (For John Fahey)
Album debutant and avid skateboard filmer John Sutherland is a person you'll hear more about in the future.