RENOS HTK Interview with WridersNYC Blog


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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Renos HTK

Renos is the second West Coast skater/writer to be interviewed here. He’s also the second subject to be connected with us by Rebel (thanks, Tommy). We spoke about his connections to/early inspirations from NYC, how he got his big pop, what skate companies he’s done graphics for, and much more.

What did you get into first, skateboarding or graffiti? 

I started skating first as a youngster, riding a plastic board at age five and riding outside of the house. Initially it was just another toy in the garage, but by age 10 I got a real setup and was hyped. It was a Sims New Wave with Indys and Alva Rock wheels. That was the start of the addiction. 

I really started to get interested in writing around age seven or so. Just being intrigued by writing on anything around the neighborhood, all by kids writing all the AC/DC and Led Zep stoner graff, and gangster writing, and eventually breakdancing nicknames. Being as my dad was from Queens, I was also always intrigued by anything having to do with New York. I do recall riding from the La Guardia Airport and seeing graff along the freeway and thinking this is too cool. During that trip I absorbed all of the neighborhood graff, and was determined to learn,and wanted to know more about it. I was fascinated and I think it altered my brain chemistry and set me on the path. This was around 1980 or so. I remember riding the 7 line and staring out the window and watching the graff roll by. Those moments implanted the virus.

Renos, grabbing Indy in ’89.

Who were you psyched on in your early days of skating? 

Initially I would see skating in the early surfing magazines – mainly just ads for the plastic boards and always thought the dudes in the pics looked real cool, carving all styled out. I had a step brother who surfed and skated and I would scour his mags. He rode a Big Red back then. He stopped skating when he bailed skitching and road rashed half of his shoulder off. He was an early influence. He was the cool older bro! Once I got a bit older and learned more about the scene I got into whoever was in Thrasher. I remember the first time I was taken to a vert ramp – it was a long skate from the skateshop and a local older kid let me tag along. We wound up at some random house and in the backyard and there is this huge vert ramp. Jeff Hedges was there; he was ripping and my mind was blown. He was the first in-person vert skater I had ever seen. Years later, I got to skate street with him. That was rad. I was too young and unskilled to skate vert and we were just into bombing big hills and just kind of cruising around the block. When we learned ollie to axel stalls, that changed the game for us neighborhood kids. Then the jump ramp era kicked in, and ramp to wall rides; we now had a type of skating we could better relate to.

Renos gets blunted in ’88.

 We had a local skate shop, Go Skate, and they had a big crew of local rippers: Chad, Jay, Mike Alcantar, Scott Oster, Eric Ryder, Fletcher Hill, Craig Barnett. They were the older dudes who ripped and we all looked up to. Then later some other folks inspired me to try and skate better and faster: Kenny Foudy, Karl Fleck, Zummer, David Smyrak, Kjhel Ossness, Toby Wolf, Pat Walsh, Kevin Price, Gabe Mckillop, Brian Carlsen the ollie master, Brian Backus RIP, Tom Cleary, Metal Man Ed, Tim Diet, Johnny Reverse RIP. When street skating started to get coverage it was Natas and Gonz and Tommy G. – they were mind melters.

Early ’90s.

Who were you psyched on in your early days of graffiti?

Style Wars help set it off for us. We were already into graff and breaking, but once we got to watch that film over and over, that became our mentorship program. And my racked Subway Art book was my tracing guide. We also had a local scene with folks like: OZ, Quickdraw, 2fast, Rock198, Sway from Boston rolled by, OOZE, and all of the early SF writers: Dug, Deen, Bisaro, Dream RIP, Spie, UB40, Saint /Noid, J love A, RWD, LAZ, ARM crew, ROT, Smokey25th, and SO MANY MORE. Mainly I just tried to bite anything in Style Wars and Subway Art and from the up older dudes in SF and Oakland.

How did you get your tag? 

I’ve had a ton over the years. Started early as Mad, then Mace, then Merc 1, Cosmic Kid was my breaking name. I went on a heavy tour as Merc and ran into some legal issues which should have made me retire!  I chilled for a bit, then eased back into it with a new name to throw them off the trail. I took the first letter of my gov’t name, added a “oner” which was in fashion at the time for “Soner”. Thinking I was clever and to try and camouflage it even more I reversed that.

What does HTK stand for?

Hill Top Kids is the original meaning, since the original members are all from a certain neighborhood. 

What would you say are the differences between California graff verses NYC graff? 

I think we just tried to do our own version of what we initially saw happening in New York. Some of it worked and some of it just got lost in translation. Everywhere had regional styles back then, before there was easy access to the game. Each local scene produced their own fonts and styles that evolved locally and organically. I think the differences were far more pronounced than they are today, which is good and bad. The learning curve is way shorter which may also help style evolve in a rapid rate which is interesting to watch. The good part of NY is that your work seems to last longer than out here in Cali.

When the West is in the house: Renos up in Brooklyn

You have some serious pop! Big ollies! Is that something you had to work on, or did it come naturally? 

One of the first things everyone used to ask was “How high can you ollie?” That was the “are you cool or a poseur” test. So I always wanted to make sure I could pass. We skated with this cat Brian Carlsen and he was the king of pop. He was ollieing tennis court nets on Roskopp face decks. He ripped!!! Jump ramp king, too. He could ollie up the stage at EMB first try… and this was in ’86 or so. That was the skating I liked to do and it just felt rad to be able to pop around. The ollie was the staple back then and I just kept at it. And to this day I am content to just roll around and ollie. Sometimes I forget to flip my board or do anything else.

Renos ollieing high in 1997.

Have you done any graphics for skate brands? 

Luckily yes!! I was lucky enough to design a few decks for a brand called Co-Op. It was a small brand, and pretty short lived. We did a video too. I did four deck graphics and some ad lettering etc. I used a NY subway template drawing and did a “conspiracy” piece on it. It was a great experience. I was lucky enough to do an OJ Wheel graphic, and an Independent trucks  t-shirt. Also a few graphics for some skateshops: Bills Wheels, Long Beach Skate, Terrace skateshop and Slappys!! 

What is it about these two subcultures (skating and graffiti) that they attract a lot of the same people?

I think back in the day we were all wild childs. Latch key kids, feral creatures who were all looking for something. Skating was easy access, didn’t require parental involvement, and a rebellious activity that offered a ton of freedom. Just grab your setup and barge out into the world and wander looking for adventure. It often attracted some of the more fringe, outcast types who banded together like a pack of wolves. Similar to many of those who gravitated to graff. It offers adventure, little $ investment, a secret world with its own hierarchies, rules, politics, and chaos!! And for me, both were on the streets and I always enjoyed wandering. 

In skating it’s not cool to film at skateparks. In graffiti it’s not cool to paint legal walls. So are legal walls the graff equivalent of skatepark footage and vice versa? What are your thoughts on these two “rules”?  

I’ve always liked to break rules. Sure when you’re a youngster coming up you should be out in the wild getting up, catching wreck, skating street spots and painting street spots! That is where the real action lays and the test of your level in the game. Once you get a bit older and the risk vs. reward stakes change, just do your thing and fuck any rules. Be stoked to still be painting or skating wherever and whenever you can. Real life kicks in quickly and the return on investment changes. Do your thing and enjoy it. Be appreciative that these insane skateparks exist and that you can afford to buy the paint to doodle your name. 

Any skaters or companies you’re psyched on right now?

Yes! I am psyched to see skating progress so quickly and looking forward to the future! It is dope to see Tony Hawk Playstation skating be real life!!!  Stoked on: Independent Trucks, Bronson Bearings, Mob Grip, OJ Wheels Double Durometers and Santa Cruz VX decks.

What writers are you seeing up that you like?

I like it all. Hyped on the toys in my neighborhood – there is a new wave of vandals en route. Stoked to see it. I like seeing the folks who are working on their tags and out there getting up!

Any shout outs? 

KTB, MD. HTK crew. Rebel SC. Thanks to you for reaching out and asking these questions! And to anyone who took the time to read my rant, thanks. Stay Up.


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