Patrick O’Dell is a skate photographer and filmmaker who created the Epicly Later’d series.
Utilising interviews and archive footage Patrick’s online skate docu-series showcased the lives, successes and struggles of skateboarding’s most interesting and elusive personalities.
It’s one of the best skate shows ever made.
We are stoked Patrick has joined No Comply so we can shine a light on his work.
We had a chat about Patrick’s new photobook, how he originally got into photography and film, learning to skate in Hong Kong, discovering RAD Magazine, getting a job at Thrasher, New York, Jake Phelps, Baker Tours, Epicly Later’d, Cardiel, Dressen, Boulala, his favourite episodes ever and much more.
Hey Patrick, so you’ve got a new book out?
Thrasher was doing a skate rock in New York with a band and a ramp and a bar and all that kind of stuff.
They had one room with a gallery space, so they asked me to think of photos and put together a show.
It wasn’t that long; I probably worked for them for 5 years or something.
So I tried to use all the photos from then.
I couldn’t find all the negatives but I just tried to find what I could find.
What came first skating or photography?
I started skating slowly because it was at that time when you have a board from a toy store.
I got like a Nash or a Variflex board from a toy store.
What inspired you to get a board?
First thing was Back to the Future, back in 1985, I saw that and thought I want to do that.
I just got a toy store board, generic, soft wheels; I didn’t know how to tighten the trucks.
It was just a crappy board. I think it may have had tail guards, rails, nose guard.
But I would go and skate everyday on the hills by my house on one of those.
Who was in your first skate crew?
I skated by myself and maybe some people in the neighbourhood.
I used to like going down this one hill that was kind of steep.
It’s probably nothing now but it felt massive at the time and I’d usually go by myself.
At this point I was kind of out in the middle of nowhere; there wasn’t anyone who really skated about.
Where did you grow up?
I moved around a lot. I got my first board in Louisville, Kentucky.
Where was the first place you settled?
Yeah we moved to Hong Kong, due to my dad’s job back when it was a British colony.
I got to school and this guy was like “do you skateboard?”,
I was like yeah…
Then he was like,
“Can you ollie?”
I had to admit I didn’t know what an ollie was or what a magazine was.
I felt like I was in skating at that point but I was not!
Had you seen any skate videos yet?
No. I’d barely seen a skate magazine or anything.
Then that Christmas I got a couple skate videos.
Rubbish Heap and Ban This and then I spent a couple months trying to ollie up this curb.
What was the first skate magazine you read?
Because Hong Kong was a British Colony, I ended up getting RAD magazine.
I ended up getting a subscription to some America magazines but at the newsstand they had RAD.
What was your favourite issue?
I remember one where Alex Moul beat Ed Templeton at a contest.
RAD was making it like he was the best skater in the world because he beat Ed Templeton.
I remember there were a lot of pictures of Curtis McCann.
Also those ads for Deathbox Skateboards that had a pack of cigarettes logos on them.
Then I moved back to Ohio for two years, then I didn’t see RAD again but I would read Thrasher and stuff.
Where did you skate in Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong I would just leave my house and go to the skate spot everybody skated, every day, on the weekend go to City Hall, which was like a good spot and just link up with whoever was around.
I was pretty independent; you could take the bus, taxi, subway and skate wherever.
Then when I was back in Columbus I was in like farm country.
In my house in Columbus, there was nothing I could walk to.
I couldn’t even walk to the store, maybe I could walk to the store but it so was far I didn’t even have a car.
So it was a culture shock moving back to Columbus from Hong Kong.
But it was around then I got into photography.
When did you get your first camera?
It was when I was in Hong Kong that I got a camera.
I started taking fake skate photos, like poser of the month type stuff, a point and shoot camera.
I have tons from then of me and my friends skating from that time.
Then in Columbus I got more into it.
I thought maybe this is something I can do as a job to do it as a career someday in order to still be around skateboarding but also to take photos too.
I was interested in photography but as a vehicle to be connected to skating in some way.
Even though I’m decent at skating I never dreamed of being a pro and to be honest I was never that good.
There’s more to skating then being pro. What did you grow up skating?
I got decent at skating but I’ve always had friends who were better than me.
What did you grow up skating?
When I started to skate I’d always skate street but now I only skate skateparks or curb.
I can’t skate any more like flatground, it’s impossible but when I started I was skating flat, curbs and ledges.
Now I go to the public park in LA and just pump around. There are a lot of parks near me in East LA.
My favourite is this one called Nicky Park because it has like a jersey barrier;
I really like a tight transition. It’s like a hip high but its tight so if you grind it or axel stall, it would feel rad.
So were you sending your photos into Thrasher?
Yeah there was a little bit of that.
Sometimes pro’s came through and I’d just shoot photos of whatever they were doing.
I have some of Tim Brauch, Phil Shao, Darren Navarrete, Sam Hitz. I shot tonnes of people like that.
Not necessarily good ones but if someone was ripping, I’d get a picture.
Where would you shoot?
Usually at this one park I used to go to called Dodge.
There weren’t that many cement parks out there so a lot of people would visit it.
There was an era where there were not as many cement parks as there there are now.
In the entire state of Ohio there were 3 cement parks and some of them were bad but Dodge was a good one.
It’s built on a hill so you start at the top and come round and round, it’s a snake run so you get a lot of speed, when you get the bottom you generally had to walk back up to the top…
But people from all over the Midwest, occasionally the whole east coast would come down.
Sometimes there’d been a demo or a pro tour would come through but a lot of times it would be the best skaters from Cleveland or something who would come down and skate it.
That’s important, keeps scenes stoked. What shot got your work noticed?
I met this guy Bryce Kanights. He was the photo editor of Thrasher,
He came through on a tour with Think where they were doing demos and I just met him through that.
I made a zine or something and I gave it to him and he told him he was a photographer and he told me he’d put them in Photografitti.
The little section in the back!
I was a little insulted like wait these are good.
But now looking back at them they were photografitti photos. There is no flash or just one, maybe.
I thought they were sick photos at the time but when I looked back they probably weren’t the best photos.
You first work is usually your most raw.
There’s a lot of pro’s whose first photo in a mag was in the Photografitti section of Thrasher.
I think Jaya Banderov was, Chad Knight was, I didn’t shoot it but he was a pro skater from Columbus but I think his first photo was in photografitti. I think Frank Hirata had one.
Photografitti was sick
But nowadays IPhone’s shoot such good photos; photografitti would look like the rest of the magazine.
But back then a point and shoot photo had a certain look you know.
Some of the photos were gems though.
There was a guy called Rob Collinson who does that Low Card magazine.
He shot photos for photografitti, like every month.
Like his thing. It was like his thing. I always thought it was a joke.
Yeah, it had its regulars
I had a friend called Sloppy Sam, really fucking goofy, he was like a pool skater and he’d always say photografitti was his favourite thing in the magazine, its where the real shit is.
So I shot a photo of him but sent it to Thrasher under a different name and I wrote, Sloppy Sam and a fake name for myself.
Did it get published?
Yeah! But I think maybe I told the wrong person as it said Sloppy Sam, photo by Patrick O’ Dell.
I think Jake Phelps discovered it was me!
I’d even written this fake letter pretending that I was from Texas and that I’m trying to get into skate photography and all these other things.
I thought it was funny and it actually came out in Thrasher!
Somehow they knew I shot it so they changed my name back!
What issue was that?
I have no idea what issue it’s in.
I was already shooting skate photos; I was already a real skate photographer at the time.
I just did it as a joke!
They must have recognised your handwriting
Also Jake Phelps knew I skated with Sloppy Sam a lot, we’d seen each other out skating.
He knew we were friends so I don’t think he bought my fake letter.
I told somebody who told somebody. I really don’t know how but they had my real name on the caption.
When did you go full-time at Thrasher?
I lived in New York; Thrasher didn’t have an east coast photographer, so I sent my shots all over the place and to every magazine.
And finally Michael Burnett asked me if wanted to go on a retainer at Thrasher.
He said ‘You get a monthly check and they take whatever you shoot over that time in return.
That’s sick, when did you get on your first tour?
In Thrasher it was probably the first ever Baker tour.
How did that go down?
I was not planning on going on the Baker tour.
I just saw them all in Philadelphia, Reynolds and all the crew and there was no photographer with them.
I asked them where the photographer was, they said we don’t have a photographer.
I said can I come on your tour?
I’ll be your photographer!
That’s a sick opportunity
I didn’t give them a choice. I was on the tour.
We shot a lot of portraits because the skaters on the team were such big personalities, we also shot some skate photos that were like whatever, but then I shot a bunch of portraits and I wrote what these guys were like and I kind of bagged on them a bit.
I talked shit on Reynolds a little bit, he got drunk, got into a fight and started crying and other guys were saying stuff about him and I put it into the article.
So it came out, it had everything.
Skate photos, portraits, and lifestyle pictures and had writing.
I never thought of myself as a writer but I was just like here’s what’s gone down on this tour.
What was the reaction to the article like?
A couple months later it came out and I didn’t hear anything from Baker.
I was like I bet they are pissed but then I ran into Reynolds at Tampa, he was like I loved that article!
It was the best article. Thanks you so much!
I thought that was crazy because I said some shit about him…
From then on, I became like a team rider, where every tour they did, they just brought me
Sick. That’s lucky
I remember once Phelps being like you know…
‘Burnett goes on these tours with all these different brands, you just keep on going on Baker tours over and over!?’
And I was just like yeah I know!
I think he added a couple of other teams through Emerica through Andrew.
Baker invited me on tonnes of stuff. But that first Baker article, I was the most proud of that.
When did you first get into shooting films?
A couple times I got a video camera and filmed a bit. But I was interested in documentaries.
I felt like when I was on the Baker tour I was curious about all the people.
Part of me gets really curious about things.
I ‘d just be curious, if there was a skater I was interested in, why they were there, who they were and that kind of interest became what my skate show, Epicly Later’d, became.
That was the germination of how I got into doing my show.
I thought it started off as a blog, when did you start that again?
2004. I did the blog whilst I worked at Thrasher.
I started getting into going out at night, going to bars at night and stuff, so I got into taking pictures on crappy camera and posting them.
The reason the show is the same name is because I started working at VICE, as a photo editor.
They we’re going to do a TV Channel and they wanted me to do a skate show, because they thought that was a market they wanted to tap into but I couldn’t think of a different name for the show.
But eventually they just thought let’s just use the name of my blog as the show.
Even though they are two totally different things, we just decided to roll with it because I couldn’t think of a name either.
What’s the difference?
One was like my diary, it was about my life, girlfriends, friends and people who don’t skate and whatever.
My skate show is just skate focused.
I have friends in it but it’s about skate history.
Why did you start your blog?
When I was in art school, I would take pictures and it would just sit in a box and nobody would ever see them but I thought they were good.
But I saw other people’s blogs and I found them really compelling.
I used to log into them every day used to check them out and I wanted to copy it and do that too.
They weren’t even called blogs back then. I think they were about daily storytelling.
Like storytelling and I think it was great way to do it.
This was obviously way before Instagram but now you can do just the same thing on that
When did you realise Epicly Later’d was popular?
Back in the 80’s there was show called SK8TV on Nickelodeons. With Sk8 master Tate.
I was picturing it like sk8 TV.
It was pretty quick after we filmed that Jason Dill episode, I started pulling footage from 101 video.
I called up World Industries, “can I use footage from this 101 video” and they were like yah sure!
That was game changing for me because I realise I can pull form any video and people would be cool with it.
I’d just rip skate videos, break them down and get skaters talking about them.
This was early YouTube, so all the videos were on YouTube; having the skaters talk about their video was pretty interesting.
So it turned into skater commentary over their parts then I thought the more interesting thing were there personal lives, their problems, things they have had to overcome and how they are navigating life.
What’s your favourite episode?
The John Cardiel episode was the first one, I thought was good.
What was it like making it?
Looking back, I wish we could have made it better, and had a budget.
I flew with one guy to San Francisco.
I interviewed Phelps, Julien Stranger, Mickey Reyes, drove to Sacramento, and spent a day with Cardiel.
We interviewed a few other people, like Toad, filmed the whole thing in a week and edited over two months.
Now I wish I could redo but I don’t know if it would be the same but I think at this point it is now 12 years old so it would be possible to redo it.
Somebody could make a proper documentary about Cardiel now.
To this day that’s the one I get the most recognition for.
People always talk to me about the Cardiel one.
Cardiel’s story was genuinely motivating
Back then, I considered it a weekly show, like a YouTube channel.
So it’s like, oh lets meet up with Tim O’Connor and see what happens, let’s meet up with Dustin Dollin and see what happens
Nowadays I think that would suck, I wouldn’t watch that as content.
At the time it was pioneering though
That kind of content isn’t the kind of thing I would watch.
At the time I just thought let’s meet up with pros and see what happens but eventually realised it was dumb.
A new one came out every weekend I feel like they build off each other but there were a few duds in the mix.
How big has the Epicly’ Later’d team grown?
The first ones were an editor and I, just two, maybe three people.
Then I hired a guy who did archiving, find the old videos and Thrasher with the Viceland TV series, there was probably an army working with us.
Each one has different editors, different people doing jobs, VICE is a big company.
Secretaries, lawyers, shared employees, there’s like a thousand people there working on it.
Are you happy for the show to be mainstream?
Yeah there are pros and cons.
The con was that it’s hard to find them, when their on the internet anyone can find them on the channel, you kind of making people have to fish around for them.
They weren’t on in England!
People would message me asking how to watch it but I don’t know to be honest. So that’s the downside.
What are the pluses?
But the plus side we never used music as a design choice only occasionally and in the TV show we had to use music, they made me but I kind of like it.
So we used music, more budget, more flights, we flew to Mexico to find Heath, we flew to Barcelona to find Bam, flew to California to visit Andy Roy.
The only problem with these budgets is that you have these huge budgets, they would be like man that’s show expensive we’re not doing more but I don’t mind if we were doing them cheaper.
You want to do more but they would be like this shows expensive!
But those TV episodes are my favourite ones. I look at those as my best ones
What are your favourite TV Episodes?
My favourite episodes from the TV are
What about on the web?
A friend called Kai came with me to film it, came with me to Stockholm.
We just stayed at Ali’s house for 10 days and filmed it.
We’d film one little thing a day, kick it with Ali all day and then in the afternoon, set up and do an interview.
We we’re like let’s take it slow and do an hour a day and just knock it all out in a day and I’m just proud of it.
It was sick but a difficult watch.
It was tough because I was conflicted because, I love Ali Boulala.
I wanted to do an episode about him, take a picture of him or anything and then when that motorcycle crash with Shane Cross happened, obviously so many people hated Ali.
I talk to so many people after it came out, let me say this first,
I wanted to give him an opportunity to tell his story and make amends for what happened and not to diminishing the severity of the fact he killed somebody, you can’t minimise that, but let’s try and tell this story from Ali Boulala’s perspective.
When he went jail, he deserved to go to jail there was no he should not have gone, but his punishment not from the government but from his own mind, his own demons.
Yeah you can tell from the episode.
I felt like he’d been punished enough. I just though let’s just try and tell this story.
But after it was out it was it was cool when I talked to a friend and he said I hated him but after I watched it made me hate him less and made me sympathise with him.
There were no winners there.
People need to be held accountable for their actions.
I don’t think he deserves hate but he deserves to be held accountable so we were not trying to tick that away. When I was done with that I felt like I was proud of it.
What other episodes were you stoked on?
I really like Elissa Steamers’ and Eric Dressen’s for the same reason.
Because I felt like they were overlooked skaters a little bit in a way, both Elissa and Erica weren’t given the credit they were due.
Sometimes people would ask me what you working on?
I’d say I’m doing an Eric Dressen episode and they were like really?
I was like man; Eric’s the longest standing pro skater ever!
Nobody from the 70’s is still pro now, sure Tony Alva’s still has presence in skating but like Eric Dressen went from 70s banana board skating, to winning contests in the 80s doing methods, to doing pressure flips and ollie impossible in the 90s, to street skating eastern exposure style skating to the 90s, to still skating now.
He still does shit.
He’s one of the most important pro skaters out there and he has an interesting story.
Why did you start the show?
I feel like there were a bunch of skaters who were a little underappreciated and when I had the opportunity to tell those stories.
I felt like a fulfilment to do a service to skating to let people know about these skaters.
It’s all subjective, it’s all my opinion, because I felt these people were more important than you think.
If I did an episode about someone everybody loves anyway, then what’s the point?
Do you know what I mean?
What do you think about current skating?
I think skating is in a good place, it’s changed since Back to the Future.
Yeah, there’s a part of me that has nostalgia of mid 90s skating, it was interesting but wasn’t the best time.
Skating wasn’t very opening and accepting back then but now skating there’s more interesting stuff.
If you have an Olympic narrative there still allows for instance, if you have a bunch of music for the mainstream, that doesn’t take anything away from underground artists.
Aerosmith and Motley Crew didn’t take anything from Minor Threat and Black Flag.
What do you think about the Olympics?
If you’re sitting around getting mad about the Olympics, you’re getting mad about something that could potentially be funny.
When the Olympics are on, I’m going to TVR it and get the popcorn on.
I’ll be rooting for someone cool to watch.
If Oskar Rozenberg won the Olympics how sick would that be?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he would come back to Sweden with an Olympic medal or Pedro Barros.
Could you imagine a bronze stature of Pedro in Brazil?
If he did he would go back to Brazil as a conquering hero.
When I’m watching I’m nationalistic, so I’ll be rooting for whoever is on team America.
Fuck it. I think with skating because I know all these people I’ll be rooting for people I know.
What are they going to wear?
They’re going to wear uniforms!
They’re going to have their sponsors boards and uniforms.
I’m excited; I hope somebody lame doesn’t win.
There’s skaters I think are lame if one of them wins, I think that would suck.
I think if an American wins, America won’t give too much of a shit, they’ll probably be big for a week.
I don’t know.
I think they should have done it differently.
One thing I think is funny was getting into skating through Back to the Futures, there’s always these influxes of when people who came in.
I came in during the time of back to the future and a tonne of other skates came in through that.
A bunch of people came in through Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, tonnes came in though Bam, so there’s all these pros now, who came in because they saw Bam on MTV. Tony Hawk’s 900 too.
Imagine now who came through Supreme or something else.
You’re a kid, back to the future looks cool or Odd Future or something I think in the future there will be a sick pro and he’ll be like I got into it through the Olympics.
The exposure of the Olympics is insane
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not super pro-Olympics but I’m just rolling with it.
This is going to be a big moment in skating.
There are a couple skaters in there, if they win it’ll be lame but if its Pedro or Oski we’d both be stoked.
I think you’re looking at it positively, that’s sick
There’s a chance the winner will be doing a benihana finger flip, it’ll be wack and we’d all be sad cus there’s always those guys too.
They once had a skate contest that was supposed to be a semi-Olympic qualifying competitions.
They did a drug test before the comp and every skater except for one failed.
Mostly it was pot but some of it was real shit.
One was growth hormone, one was cocaine, the cocaine one was so high, like if you did coke yesterday it would not have been that high, you had to be on it on the time you were tested.
They drug tested everyone and everyone failed except one guy.
I bet now they all quit smoking pot now though.
I’m sure there are a couple of them were on steroids.
You can use steroids to recover from injuries.
People who use steroids aren’t necessarily diesel; they got hurt and took steroids to recover.
I know there’s a few of them but I actually don’t who they were.
No Way. Great chatting to you. Do you have any last words for the people reading this Patrick?