The film, skating, and fashion talent has worked with Jonah Hill and Tyler, the Creator collaborator – here, he tells us about his online obsessions
Dazed Faves is the series where we talk all things online – that surreal meme account you’re obsessed with, weird conspiracy theory subreddits, ASMR YouTubes, or slime Instagrams.
Mikey Alfred has impacted the worlds of music, skating, filmmaking, art, and fashion as the founder of Illegal Civilization, the skate and clothing brand he started out of his home base of North Hollywood, Los Angeles. He began making skate films when he was just 12 years old, and was there with camera in hand to capture rise of Odd Future when he was still just a teenager. He’s worked with the likes of Kali Uchis, Frank Ocean, and Spike Jonze; more recently he’s been collaborating with Jonah Hill, who tapped Alfred to produce his directorial debut, Mid90s. Alfred even cast a member of the Illegal Civilization family, his old friend Na-Kel Smith, in a major role.
Today (February 16), Illegal Civilization are hosting an all-day showcase celebrating the crew’s work in music, film, and beyond with performances from Tierra Whack, Tommy Genesis, Show Me the Body, and Na-Kel Smith. It’s taking place at the Pink Motel for LA’s edition of Red Bull Music Festival.
“The Pink Motel is a legendary place in the Sun Valley in North Hollywood,” Alfred explains over the phone. “As a kid, I’d always see this empty pool there. We always wanted to skate it, but never could. Now, to be able to skate it while we have our event there, it’s a cool circular moment, for sure.”
Before the show, Alfred shared some of his internet obsessions with us for our Faves series, where artists give us an insight into their browsing habits on the worldwide web. All of Alfred’s choices are taken from YouTube, which makes sense – after all, Illegal Civilization rose to prominence through the video streaming platform. In fact, in one of our very first Faves interviews, Rex Orange County talked about how much Illegal Civilization impacted his world.
FAVE LATE NIGHT VIDEO: “YOU GOT IT ON MY WIFE, KEV?”
Mikey Alfred: I love this video so much. It makes me laugh every single time I watch it. Sometimes, if I feel shitty, I’ll put this video on and it’ll make me feel good again. It kills me when Jay says, “You got it on my wife, Kev?”
I’m 23. Growing up as a little little kid, there wasn’t YouTube. Even when YouTube came out, it wasn’t good stuff – it was just people hula-hooping, and things like that. YouTube didn’t get good to me until they started putting Late Night videos on. I love watching people on Fallon and Kimmel.
Have I found anything useful from watching these videos? I’m trying to be a filmmaker, and these people are all actors and directors. There’s a certain language in any medium you go into – people in music talk to each other a certain way, people in film talk a certain way – and when you watch Late Night, you get a piece of that language.
One time I went to Jimmy Kimmel’s post-Golden Globes party. I walked up to him and I said, “Hey man, I just want to say, thank you for your show. When I feel down in the dumps, I’ll watch your show and it makes me happy.” He said, “Thanks, man.” And before I walked away, he said, “You know what else would make you happy? Masturbating.” We both started dying in laughter.
FAVE MUSIC VIDEO: DURAND JONES & THE INDICATIONS, “IS IT ANY WONDER?”
Mikey Alfred: I think Durand Jones is so talented. He has no ego. The guy singing in this video, he’s usually playing one of the instruments – Durand Jones is actually the black dude sitting down. The reason I like this video is that Durand Jones is able to let his friend get some shine. He just sat down for that one. There’s something so dope about that. When people can share the light, anything is possible. I try my best to make sure people get their time and their opportunity to kill it.
FAVE SKATE PART: NA-KEL SMITH, IC2 PART
Mikey Alfred: Me and Na-Kel worked really hard on this one. It came out incredible. Not to toot our own horn, but it’s so fucking good. (Laughs) It feels good to work on something really hard and other people like it too. That’s really gratifying. It reminds you to keep going. Me and Na-Kel met when we were 14, and we’ve been skating and filming each other since then. Na-Kel introduced me to Tyler, and we’ve just really helped each other a lot throughout the years. He’s one of my favourite collaborators, an incredible person and super talented.
How did YouTube change skate videos? They’ve gotten a lot more interesting. The Bronze videos are really creative. There’s a company called Melodi in Atlanta, their stuff is so dope. There’s a company called Gang Corp in New York, they’re really sick. It just opened the door for people to do whatever they want with editing and with music. People have a skate scene in Afghanistan, which is insane to think about. They build skate spots in the Middle East. YouTube is how I first found out about it.
I spend so much time on YouTube just watching stuff. It’s such an unfiltered way to spread your art. You don’t need to get it approved by anyone, you don’t have to go through a distribution channel, you can literally just press ‘Publish’.
When I was ten years old, I started filming skateboarding. At the time, I told my mum that this is what I want to do: I don’t want to sing in the choir anymore, I don’t want to altar serve. She gasped at that, obviously, but she took me to her boss’s house. My mum has been a personal assistant to Robert Evans for the last 35 years. Robert Evans produced The Godfather and Chinatown and these incredible movies. He was like, “You like films? Would you go to film school?” The next summer, I went to Columbia in New York and did this kid’s film programme, where everyone was aged ten to 17. On the last day, you screen a short film. After mine, at the end, no one clapped. The teacher got on the mic. “Next.” I was just crushed: maybe I’m not supposed to make movies. YouTube was the outlet that allowed me to put videos out.
FAVE INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO: JAY-Z ON NOT LIVING AVERAGE
Mikey Alfred: When Jay says, “What’s the point of living average?” – you know, why not just go live this enormous life? – it made me go, yeah, you’re right, because you can always go back to living average. It’s always gonna be there. But while you’re young, go for it. When you don’t have kids, do something monumental.
What’s my inspirational advice to people? (Thinking for a minute) Fear is the number one decapitator. If you’re trying to do art, no one’s gonna kill you if your art is bad. No one’s gonna murder you if they don’t like your stuff. The moment you can realise that, you can take over the world.