What LA Spots Will You Hit Up During The Best Weekend Ever?
June 29, 2021 - On July 2nd, CCS will be announcing a lucky winner from the pool of CCS+ Member entrants to win the...
The Hard Times has been illuminating the inevitable ridiculousness that comes from making public intoxication and the height of your mohawk the primary concerns in your life. With the release of The Hard Times: The First 40 Years the internet's most hilarious satirical punk site gets inducted into the realm of ISBN-validation. We sat down with Stand-up comic and Hard Times co-founder/Editor to discuss highlights from his double-decades of skateboarding, punk and what he finds in Koston's garbage can.
Bill Conway (Founder, Editor-in-Chief, The Hard Times): I got my first board from CCS. It was in 1996 or ‘97 for my birthday of that year, a Powell Ripper Slick board, the reissue. Not the original Ripper shape but it was that, Venture trucks and I think I had the matching Powell Wheels-the Bones wheels that went with it. That was my first board when I was 12 years old. I remember picking it up from the Post Office and being very excited about that. An older kid told me “Oh, you can boardslide better
Cris Lankenau (CCS Copywriter, local idiot): Have you been skating consistently throughout your life since then or did you stop for a while and pick it back up?
BC: No, I’ve been skating consistently since I was 12. I’m 36 now so I’ve been skating for 24 years solid.
CL: You grew up in Boston?
BC: Just South of Boston, kind of where Brandon Westgate is from. We lived in the same general vicinity of Cranberry Bog suburbs.
CL: What’s it like during those winters? Gotta be pretty harsh for skating.
BC: We were the ‘Grab a shovel and go to the skatepark and carve out a path’ kind of skateboarders. Or if the gas station got plowed, we’d take a rail over there or go skate it when it closed. There were indoor skateparks too there was 8 Ball, Skater’s Island, ZT Maximus, there was park that opened up in Taunton called Skater’s Edge which was Nick Dompierre’s home park back when Nick Dompierre was still a skateboarder of note, before he broke his back and became a weightlifter.
CL: Isn’t Donny Barley from up there as well?
BC: So, he’s a Providence guy..or at least Rhode Island. I don’t know how specific people like to get about Rhode Island but he was always considered a Providence local. There was some crossover there but he was a generation ahead of me and I’d see him skating around Boston every now and again, like, you know, just a blur that went by and you’re like ‘I think that was Donny Barley!”
CL: Welcome To Hell was the epitome of my skate life. That video was life-changing to my friends and I.
BC: Oh, man. Yeah. There’s a line he does in Boston, near Copley in his <Welcome To Hell> part. He does a frontside 360 off that curb-cut and he’s just cruising down the street. God, I just love that line. It’s just...it’s a lot of pushing, you know? One of my favorites is that line there. Donny Barley, i mean....one of the best.
CL: I know exactly what line you mean. I know what he was wearing in it. I remember seeking out pants that fit like that to pair - he was wearing shoes that look a lot like the Sal Barbier 23s...or, maybe it was those - regardless, whatever it was, I just patterned my look on that. Even recently I’ll base my wardrobe on shit like that. But one really cool thing about Barley is, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Westgate episode of Epicly Later'd, there’s a scene where him and Patrick O’Dell are in a restaurant and he just seems very polite and like nice to the waitress, and I’m like man, I already loved him but now it’s just been totally underlined.
BC: Those little things are big when it comes to that. I had a friend that called it “radittude” - like when a good skateboarder thinks he can get away with being a jerk, but nobody cares if you’re a skateboarder, be nice to people you fuckin idiot.
CL: If you had to apply the sort of thematic elements of Hard Times to the skate scene, is there anybody who comes to mind that would be maybe like the most clowned on, or maybe just like a Morrissey type, or I don’t know I guess is Morrissey one of the most clowned on people on Hard Times?
BC: Morrissey is certainly up there. It’s tough to say with the skate scene, I mean, there’s certain people like you know, at the height of Chad Muska there’s a certain personality that he propagated that would have been a target at some point. Or the Tom Penny worshippers would have been a target if that were still a thing, but I don’t know, current day- who that breakthrough person- other than like, Nyjah, but I think it would be tough. There’s a skateboard satire Instagram account called The Nut Daily News and they do a pretty good job at satirizing the skate scene, but some of the things are so specific, like about Bobby Puleo and pole jams? You’re like “OK, eight people are gonna get this?” I think you’d have to go back, for The Hard Times, we’ve touched on stuff like the Tony Hawk skater soundtrack cultural crossover moments where skateboarding and punk became mainstream for brief windows, and those would definitely have been targets, but as far as anything right now I can’t think of you know, I don’t know if it’s all watered down or what it is. Maybe it’s Instagram, where everything’s so accessible with clips that you just don’t - yeah, I don’t really know.
CL: The sneaker-head scene in skating is surprising to me. Just how insane the Nike Dunk has become as desirable to people as narcotics. I had no idea that every time there’s a release the social media influx of messages and like - I just had never - it was beyond anything I could remember being that enthralled with. It was like going to see Morrissey where you encounter these people that are so fanatical that it’s like - oh my god, this makes me want to ditch the whole thing.
BC: Yeah, like is this really what you’ve dedicated your time and resources towards? If it makes you happy, that’s fine but - woof - I could think of a lot of other things that I could do better - like I’ve never been a shoe guy, other than, I mean I find a good skate shoe and I buy that over and over again until they no longer make it, then I begrudgingly find something that looks similar, and that’s just how I live my life. If I find out they’re going to discontinue them, I buy like four pairs, and those will last me a year or two.
CL: What’s your current?
BC: Currently I just have some cheap Adidas canvas shoes - part of it is I went vegan about four years ago, so I stopped buying suede. Before I went vegan the Adidas Busenitz Vulcs were the shoes I had over and over and over again. When I was living in San Francisco I would always see Dennis Busenitz skating down the street when I was wearing his pro model shoe, and I thought “this is like playing a pickup game of basketball, and then running into Michael Jordan” - it’s just kind of like weird, like - ‘I hope you got $5.00 for this or something. Keep on ripping!’
CL: Before that?
BC: Before the Busenitz, I think for a time they were the Leo Romero Emerica, I was into their basic look, I like the most basic-looking of shoes. Thinking back, there was a brief period of some Kostons, which is weird, now that I live in LA and I discovered that Eric Koston lives a few blocks away from my house, which is strange. But yeah, mainly the Busenitz and some cheap canvas ones that, you know, last 3 skate sessions before the ShoeGoo has to come out..
CL: I haven’t heard, or thought about ShoeGoo in a long time. eS Accels were the shit I rolled with many times in a row. Koston must be around. I saw him like a decade ago when I was living in NY at this place on St. Marks and I saw him, Brian Anderson and ...someone else, I don’t remember. By that time I had not been skating for a while so I’d kind of moved on, but I would still, you’d be starstruck for the rest of your life pretty much.
BC: Right, I saw him drive by my apartment when I was like throwing out the garbage, and I walked back in and told my wife “I think Eric Koston just drove by,” like she would know who he was...and I was walking my dog a few weeks ago, and he was walking his dog with his wife, and I was like “oh right. Okay, I’m pinpointing exactly where he lives.” Then one day I saw him pulling out of his driveway and I was like “okay, I know EXACTLY where Eric Koston lives!” Now I dig through his garbage on almost a daily basis. It’s an alright living. Not bad. Some of the perks of living in Los Angeles I suppose.
CL: Is there a certain type of Hard Times pitch you hear the most often?
BC: The pitch that me and the other editors joke around that we get the most often would be something like: 17 Dead in Ska Band Bus Crash - just some large number and “bus crash” - we see that a lot. We don’t get it as much now, but early on we would get “Keith Morris Shuts Down Locks of Love After Donation” you know, cause he’s got dreadlocks, so therefore they couldn’t take them. But apparently now Keith Morris has cut off his dreadlocks. A friend of mine in LA said they saw him aimlessly wandering the street no longer dreadlocked, so that’s big news.
We get a lot of pitches because we have an open submission process, so we encourage people to try to write for us, and send us pitches. When we accept one we add them to our online pitch group, where they can pitch more regularly. We’ve always paid our freelancers, and we are always open to more people becoming part of the team.
The best thing is when somebody will email us with a pitch, and then a week later email us back saying we stole their joke, and they’ll send us a link and we’ll say “we actually published this a year before you sent your email, if you check the date on the post you would see that technically you stole the joke from us, you just didn’t realize it, and it’s parallel thought, and you’ve got to chill out.” We have had a lot of people trying to claim that we stole their joke, when in reality it’s not the case.
CL: Like in the dozens? Hundreds?
BC: In the dozens. There are some people who have emailed very angrily. There’s a notorious one where somebody emailed us...I’m trying to think of the exact headline that we...okay, so the headline that we ran, we published, was “Straight Edge Friend Scumbag in Every Other Way Possible,” so just about straight edge people being scumbags, and he sent us a headline saying “Straight-Edge Friend Takes Another Bottle of Fanta Just In Case” and he said these were two of the exact same headlines and that we stole his idea. I have no idea what he’s talking about, first off, about the Fanta - it doesn’t make any sense - two bottles? One extra just in case? Fanta has never been part of the straight edge subculture, so I have no idea what the hell he’s talking about, and it’s always confused me. If anybody can crack that code I’d love to hear it because I have no idea what he’s talking about.
CL: Yeah, just that it’s I don’t know, that it’s a soft-beverage I suppose? I read that you cited the “Dog Can’t Name Three Bands..” or whatever it was, as the ideal headline.
BC: Yeah, “Dog in Misfits Bandana Can’t Name Three of their Songs.”
CL: Do you recall a go-to when people ask you what was the funniest or most specific to your taste that you absolutely adored?
BC: I think there was one, and I hate to say it was one of my own headlines that I pitched, but I pitched it and wondered if other people could relate to it and it turned out it did very very well, but it was “Heavily Tattoed Band Tired of Being Asked if They Are Chefs,” because every time my friends and I went into restaurants they’d ask us if we were in a band, and we were like “no, we just happen to have expendable income, and decided to fuck up our job opportunities for the future. That’s all these are, we’re not in a band just cause there’s four of us. That one ended up people really liked that one and related to it, so I guess that happens to a lot of people. There’s another one that I like and that’s “Tall Guy Finds Perfect Woman to Stand in Front of at Show,” and I think that’s one people related to a lot, and it’s just about those short people at shows who always end up behind the 6’6” guy. That happens so often. My wife is 5’ tall so she can basically never go to see live music because all she’s getting is an earache and not seeing anything.
CL: So the most often that I recall as being bananas so fucking funny was ‘Let’s Just Merge the Two Shows’ Says Fucking Idiot”
BC: That’s a vintage Hard Times article right there! That one goes back four or five years.
CL: Does it?
BC: Yeah. That one’s probably from our first year of the site. I believe it was a guy named Steven Nguyen pitched that one, and yeah it was very early on in the Hard Times experience.
CL: Wow. I mean, not to ask you about the entire trajectory but was there anything you recall as huge breakthroughs, like I imagine putting the book out that you guys recently did is something of a milestone, but are there any others that come to mind?
BC: Yeah there were certain times where musicians would re-post us, like early on, I think about a month in, we did a headline about Christmas being ruined by the latest Black Flag album, and Ron Reyes, the vocalist on that Black Flag album re-posted it on Facebook, and we were like “wait, people are actually reading this? How did it reach the guy that this is actually about?”
So little things like that, then one time we got mentioned on CNN which was like a big deal for us that day. It was when Trump was starting to do those text alerts and it was like the testing of the National Emergency things via text, and the headline was just like “Tiffany Trump Receives First Ever Text From Father” and that ended up making it on CNN that night, so that was a pretty big one. It’s always just been little things from bands that I enjoy that repost it, and as if I haven’t listened to them since I was 14 years old and next thing was like “oh we made it, we were mentioned on The Hard Times,” and it’s like “No, no. The reason The Hard Times exists is because you made music.” And now it all comes in a weird full circle sort of thing. Like Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem, when he, I think their album The 59 Sound is easily one of my favorites of all time, and we did one about Brian Fallon digging through Bruce Springsteen’s garbage, and he re-tweeted that, and we were very excited, and yeah he’s always had a great sense of humor about us making fun of him, so yeah - things like that.
CL: Yeah, that album is great. Is there anybody that’s been the opposite? Who’s gotten in touch and said WTF?
BC: Yeah, we’ve had multiple people saying they’re going to sue us, which is always funny because they can’t. Satire is protected speech, so The Hard Times was founded by me and Matt Saincome and he’s the “founder” founder. He’s the guy who came up with the idea, and we started it together, but he often fields a lot of those emails from people. The first one I can remember is Alien Ant Farm. We had a headline that was like “Alien Ant Farm Unsure if They Can Still Play That One Michael Jackson Song,” and they emailed us saying “where did you get these quotes? These don’t exist. I don’t know who the fuck you think you are,” and then like 15 minutes later he emails back like “oh I’ve been told that you are a joke,” so I don’t know who got in his ear. Then recently we did one that, with all the police brutality that’s going on, we did a headline that was “Village People Kick Out the Police Officer,” and Howard Stern, Robin on Howard Stern ended up reading it on the air, that headline, and talking about how this was happening, and then one of their producers had to jump on and go “no I think you got tricked by a fake story,” but also that same week, the Village People PR person emailed us saying they were going to sue us, and Matt just emailed them back saying “Go ahead. See what happens. Fuck you.” And of course nothing came of it.
CL: It’s so refreshing to know that you can respond in that way, as the “David” of that story - you’re the little guy with not as much means, that’s amazing.
BC: Yeah, it’s - we’ve talked with a lawyer about it and they’re like “your responses are what we wish we could tell our client that they can say.” Which is basically: Fuck you! All they’re trying to do is scare you into taking it down. They’d be wasting $450 on a call to their lawyer just for their lawyer to say “No, you can’t do anything, so...good luck.”
CL: Wow. Were there ever situations where you had to, or is it just all encompassing this is satire?
BC: We have done it when people asked nicely, I guess you could say, and also there’s been kind of a rough thing where we talk a lot about punk and hardcore kids and it turns out a lot of punks die young. We have used photos of an punk who was very much alive at the time we published an article and then a year later it turns out he dies and we’ve reposted something on Facebook with this random kid we met at a festival who was psyched to get his photo taken for a Hard Times article like died in a car accident, and then his grandmother emails us all pissed off, wondering why we’re making fun of her dead grandson, and we’re like “oh no, um, he wanted to be in this article. We didn’t realize he’d passed - we’ll change the photo. But that’s really it. A lot of tragic death..
CL: I can imagine. Are you just constantly scouting photos for whatever purpose - to be determined?
BC: We have a couple friends in different things who are like “Hey if you go to a show, ask people if you can take a photo of them holding this beer,” or whatever, so we’ll be able to use that eventually. There’s gotta be a time when we’ll need “punk holding beer” for a photo. So we have kind of a database of random punk photos, or sometimes we’ll buy a random photo off Shutterstock, and it just happens that the guy in the photo will have died, and we have no idea, and we’ll get yelled at by their grandparents.
CL: Do you have a favorite or particular company team or skater that you follow to this day?
BC: Growing up I had every Toy Machine ad hung up on my wall. Earlier you mentioned Welcome to Hell - that was my first skate video that I owned, back in ‘96, and it just, I think if I’d picked up a different video I would have gone down a different path in skateboarding, but you know the music choices in that pretty much- starts off with Lard song, then a Misfits song, ends with a Maiden song, so all of that was very informative.
Ed Templeton and his aesthetic has been heavily influential. Years ago when I was living in Boston proper I had just bought a Real deck, and I was skating home from a party one night, not even a party, it was a friends house that was next to a party that had been broken up, and some cops were arresting frat boys, and as I was skating home a cop ran me off the road, and my board ended up going under his car. I went to reach for it and he put the car in reverse and ran over my hand and board, which I’d just bought earlier that day. And when I went to the skate shop I was like “yeah I need a new board, um...a cop fucked me over,” the skate shop ended up contacting Real and Real ended up sending me like two free decks, so since that day I’ve only rode boards/products from the under the Deluxe umbrella, going on 15 years now. Right now I have a Krooked deck but usually I have an Anti-Hero, but I’m pretty much a loyalist to all things Deluxe since they hooked me up after getting my hand run over by a fucking cop.
CL: How did that resolve?
BC: It resolved by me pulling my hand out and going “Whoa, holy shit you just ran over my hand, and he was like “no I didn’t,” and I was like “look, it’s fucking bleeding,” and he said “I don’t see anything,” and another cop came over saying “what’s the problem here” and I told him “your buddy just ran over my hand and it’s bleeding,” and he said “it looks fine to me.” So I was like “oh, interesting.” I went home, I got mad, and went back out and found the cop busting another party and I was like “I need your badge number,” thinking “what the hell is this going to do,” then I went down to the nearest police station and I walked in and talked to the receptionist, and I told her “I need to talk to the commanding officer of this person’s badge number,” and she told “alright, they’ll see you soon, do you want a bandaid?” and I was like “no I would prefer to bleed all over your counter and floor.” I just sat there for four hours waiting for them to come talk to me, and they never did, and then another cop came out and said “hey everybody’s back, they’re just kind of laughing at you, I’m just going to take you home,” and I was like “sounds good” cause this was four in the morning at this point, and I had to go to work that day. So yeah, that’s how that resolved was cops being cops.
BC: Since that day, when the guy at the skate shop I frequented contacted their rep and they sent me out a couple free boards, that gesture made me a loyalist. And then I lived in SF for 5 years, so you kind of have to buy Deluxe in SF.