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Tony Hawk and Surfbort’s Dani Miller3

Tony Hawk and Surfbort’s Dani Miller go head-to-head

The pro skater and punk star discuss shooting a joint music video, ignoring the haters, and their favourite 7/11 snacks

Easily the most famous name in skateboarding, Tony Hawk has cemented his legacy in the pop culture hall of fame. A name synonymous with 90s and 00s culture, the pro skater has invented 89 vertical tricks, won more than 70 competitions, and even guest-starred on The Simpsons. He’s the lanky dude from California who landed the first-ever ‘900’, a trick involving two-and-a-half mid-air revolutions on a board. His Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game franchise ignited a generation of youth to hop on their boards and keep shredding. It’s arguably one of the reasons that the sport has transitioned from a male-dominated environment to the diverse crowd it hosts today. 

Now aged 53, the pro skater heads a skate team that supports rising stars in the scene, including Finnish-American Lizzie Armanto, the first woman to successfully skate Hawk’s dangerous 360° loop. His foundation, The Skatepark Project, helps build skateparks in underserved communities, while his documentary Until the Wheels Fall Off debuted on HBO Max this month – and is set to a thrashing soundtrack of punk from over the decades.

For Hawk, punk and skateboarding go hand-in-hand; some would even go as far as to call it the unofficial sound of the sport. Hawk’s latest foray into the genre is by way of riotous Brooklyn band Surfbort. Their latest music video for track “Open Your Eyes” features Hawk crashing on a ramp and waking up to the manic grin of the band’s devilish frontwoman and Gucci muse Dani Miller, whose punk spirit is felt through her signature rainbow mullet and brain-rattling on-stage presence.

Below, the pair discuss shooting a joint music video, ignoring the haters, and their favourite 7/11 snacks.

How did you both meet? What were your first impressions of each other?

Tony Hawk: I already knew about the band and I think that you had some connection with my son Riley.

Dani Miller: Yeah, me and Riley are friends and we connected through music. 

Tony Hawk: When Linda (Perry) reached out, I was already somewhat familiar with Surfbort. She sent me the album early release. It's very much the aesthetic and sound of what I think is skate culture.

Dani Miller:  Hell, yeah. You were the first person we sent the record to.

Tony Hawk: I’m totally honoured. It was cool. And then, immediately, she was asking about what we can do together. I’m not a promoter or anything but I was happy to be involved – and then we came up with this video idea.

Dani Miller: Totally. I realised how connected music and skating is. We played a skate festival and so many kids are always asking you to put Surfboard songs in your skate videos. It goes hand-in-hand. Even though I’m a skating poser, I love the skate world.

Anyway, I asked Arrow from Starcrawler what she would ask you – so, Coke or Pepsi? 

Tony Hawk: Coke. 

Dani Miller: And what's your favourite 7/11 snack?

Tony Hawk: If I had to dig deep, it would be a Coke Slurpee. But I used to be very picky about the consistency and if it was too watery.

Dani Miller: I like sour gummy worms. 

I thought the music video that we did together had some really cool themes. I’m yelling at you that you suck at skating and the band is coaching you and being all hardcore. But then you push through the obstacles and just keep shredding. There’s similar themes in your documentary of not fitting into the skate world, So, I have a question: what’s your best advice to ignore the haters and just keep shredding?

Tony Hawk: Oh, wow, that’s complicated. I think it was because, when I found skating, I finally found something that I felt like I could do in my own style. It gave me a sense of self confidence that I didn’t have. There were members of the community that didn’t like what I was doing. But there was also a community that I identified with, because we were all these little kid misfits. I found my community. You saw the haters, but I also found my friends there – my lifelong friends. That’s what gave me the incentive and the confidence to keep going, because we found each other and it was like, these guys over here don’t like us, but who cares? There’s definitely that messaging in the video we did. It’s a little more in jest. The irony is that you guys are all more of the camp of ‘we don't belong’. So for you guys to be ostracising me in the video was kind of funny – but I’m used to it.

Dani Miller: This is really dorky but in college, I wrote an essay comparing Eastern philosophy to bombing hills and hitting a rock. The thing was getting through obstacles in a graceful way, even when you hit them. It kind of goes with skating and it goes with life. Like, so much fucked up shit happens and we have to just carry on and keep shredding – no matter the obstacles or injuries or weird life shit. 

Tony Hawk: That is truly the messaging of the song. What you wrote is that tomorrow’s a new day and we’re gonna just keep pushing onward. 

Dani Miller: Totally. We’re a band of clowns and we like to have fun and goof off. But there’s also a deeper meaning to it. OK I have another question: what’s your favourite band right now that’s not Warish?

Tony Hawk: I can’t do the nepotism thing (laughs). I’d say my favourite band is Idles. In the way Rage came on the scene, I was like, ‘holy shit, this is crazy. This is powerful. And this is political’. They came in like so hot and heavy and you can’t ignore them.

Dani Miller: What inspires me about them is they took a while to hit off and reach where they are now. It’s been 10 years of them being a band and now they’re just popping off. We’ve actually been hanging with some skaters lately. We did a video with Lizzie Armanto. How did you guys meet?

Tony Hawk: I first saw her skate 11 or 12 years ago and there was something about her that reminded me of me. She was really skinny and seemed somewhat intimidated by the skate scene. But she was going for it and dropping in. 12 years ago, skating was much more male dominated than it is now. For a girl at 14 to jump into a session, like a snake session in a pool, was bold. I saw her try stuff that was there was pretty advanced and didn’t fit her style, so I noticed her right away. I saw her as coming into her own as a skater and I just hit her up and asked to bring you on board our team. I thought it was very cool that you guys offered her to direct a video.

Dani Miller: She’s the coolest director ever. It was insane. It was cool watching both of you. I mean, it’s super powerful.  

Tony Hawk: You’re on her ramp, right? 

Dani Miller: Yeah. I feel like with music and skating, we both just hack the planet – we go super hard. It’s physical and wild and crazy. 

Tony Hawk: With no rules. 

“When I found skating, I finally found something that I felt like I could do in my own style. It gave me a sense of self confidence that I didn’t have” – Tony Hawk

Dani Miller: Just being ourselves and going wild. So yeah, I love watching you skate. What tricks are you most proud of? Besides the one I invented for you, Lizard 5000 On Fire. 

Tony Hawk: I can't say I really got that one wired or that it’s my trick, so you get full credit for that one.

I guess my most famous trick was the 900 which is a two and a half spin. But honestly, the trick I’m most proud of is an Ollie 540 which is basically a one and a half spin without grabbing the board. When I first started trying it, I was trying it as a joke. I didn’t think it was possible. I actually did my last one last year, so rest in peace. What song are you most proud of? 

Dani Miller: The song I connect with most is Lot Lizard 93, mostly because during live shows, everyone is singing the words in such a cathartic way. We're all singing, I'm just an angel living in a nightmare, because like that's how I feel all the time. 

Tony Hawk: Did you know that when you wrote it?

Dani Miller: I was vulnerable, like this is a dear diary. Like, I felt a little cheesy. The duality of all this is like what I’m into. I scream and I'm, I can be like a bitch and just like yelling and having a blast and going psycho. But I'm also like, can be like in a fantasy world, or crying in my room and painting. How did your documentary premiere go? 

Tony Hawk: It was surprisingly good. It was the first time that I saw it with any sort of public, so it was really kind of scary. People were laughing at the most minute humour and crying. At one point, there's the big scene of the X Games in the first 900 and I did it and everyone started cheering. I was like, ‘I’m pretty sure you guys all knew that's how it ends’. This happened 20-something years ago. 

At the X Games in those days, you weren’t allowed to bring video cameras in, because DSPN just had a lockdown on everything. But there were a few people that saw that [moment] unfolding and pulled out their cameras and they were hiding them in their shirts. So he found all the people that were in the audience that had video cameras and got their footage.

Dani Miller: What was the first punk show that you went to?

Tony Hawk: GBH and Bad Brains and The Attics.

Dani Miller: Sick.

Tony Hawk: I got a boot to the face. I was still small and skinny. It was a little more violent than I imagined it to be. 

Dani Miller: Yeah, that rules. I know. The punk shows back then were insane. I feel like my crowd is locking arms bouncing around like, ‘woo friendship pit’. But the punk shows back then were full boot to the face.

Tony Hawk: What’s the scariest show you’ve been to as a spectator?

Dani Miller: It’s not scariest, but the most fun is this warehouse in Brooklyn that I found when I was16. It was just full of rage. The whole entire warehouse was a circle pit and everyone was freaking out and jumping off the walls. Oh, also Dead City. They’re a local LA band. And they put on shows like, just under the freeway and they will be on the LA news on the helicopter and just take over LA – their shows are insane. Oh, and the circle pit is on fire. 

Tony Hawk: That reminds me: I saw Ministry in 1990. They had oil drums on fire. It felt like they wanted to kill the audience.

Dani Miller: I wanted to ask, do you have any advice or wisdom for people starting out, like young skaters, or just any young creatives?

Tony Hawk: Find your passion, find your voice, and just stick with it. If it's in the case of skating, or music, explore the elements of whatever you're into. Explore all the other aspects of it, because that's going to help you in the end. Like with skating, learn techniques that maybe you were really drawn to. Get out of your comfort zone.

Dani Miller: That's how I feel about learning how to produce. Linda is always advocating for people to learn how to do it all themselves.

But seriously though, coming back full circle: what a cool video. You did a trick over me. That was really hard to act while you were doing a trick over me. And then I frickin skated you. At first, I was barely doing it. But then I pulled it off. Now I bragged to everyone that I'm officially a pro skater because I skated a pro skater.

Tony Hawk: What can I say, you’re the only one.

Surfbort play London’s Wide Awake festival in May