To me, pro skaters are like comic book super heroes. They possess something extra, that super-natural ability to clear gaps or fly down stairs that most skaters (myself included) don't even perceive as skateable. So naturally, we gravitate to particular riders much like we gravitate towards specific super heroes who embody the characteristics we value. Leo Romero is one of my personal "Legion of Doom" skaters. His skating is something that I’ve admired especially as he's grown. His grit, his heart, his tenacity are qualities transcend his video parts. He’s simply the skater I’ve always wished I could be. And his talent is as diverse as Bruce Wayne's. Leo doesn't shy away from other ways to create and express himself. His music is where I began to take special notice of his curious and creative spirit. We were humbled and honored to sit down with Leo Romero in February in a humble abode to talk shoes, skateboarding, music, life, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Enjoy.
First of all Leo, thanks so much for taking interest in us and for sitting down with us to chat.
Not a problem.
So whats your shoe Game like?
Ummm, well, I only wear Emerica, which is the company I ride for. I usually only wear those when I skate, but I wear them sometimes when I'm not skating. I'd say that I mostly wear boots, like those custom boots I was telling you about. Just boots I find that I like. It really started as a young kid solely based off of superheroes. My parents bought me cowboy boots because when you're Mexican, you have to have cowboy boots. I used to walk around in cowboy boots and my underwear pretending I was a superhero. I don't think I ever really lost that fascination with cowboy boots or boots in general since then.
Boots in particular?
Yeah, I don't know what it is really. I think there's just a lasting quality, that idea that you can wear them and make them cooler with the wear and tear. Stories are told by the scars, they are a reflection of who you are and your story.
How would you describe your on sense of style? Do you think about it much?
I don't really think about it much. I have people that I look up to; they can pull off that type of gear. I would say I am pretty casual and toned down. Other than that, I like to wear suits. I just like the classic heritage look, I think that's what it's called. Nice leather cowboy boots. I'm really big on the classic American style.
So you're from Fontana. You grew up there, but using your skateboard as your passport to all these different worlds, you've been exposed to so much. When was the time you started realizing you wanted to dress differently than just skate wear?
Kind of around the time I started chasing girls. It's when you get older that you want different things. You want to be an individual, because when you're skating, you are so one-track minded you just don't see it. I was constantly moving. Constant jogging in place. Once you begin being noticed, you get to reflect and look back and you get other interests along the way. You don’t want to be like the next guy. You become an individual. You listen to different music, actors and movies and branch out. It started when I was in Los Angeles hanging out with rock n' rollers, and I didn't want to be like that. Those dudes are crazy. So I started listening to Bob Dylan and Americana music at age 18 and it's stuck with me. When I was younger, I got in this mind state when skating or with music and I just want to do it and I don’t think bout anything else. Whats happening all around me? I’m not conscious. It's like I’m driving somewhere and that’s all I look at: the destination.
Is that the most of the time?
Yeah kinda. It's been that way since a kid and because I don’t have a family, so I feel blessed to be able to be one-track minded. I can be absorbed by things. Then when I get there, I’m over it and I want to be somewhere else. It’s more like an “idle hands" kind of thing. I don’t think when I was a kid I thought I was driven. But when I go to a certain skate spot, I was always like, "Holy shit!" I don’t need to force myself to skate or to learn a trick. I’ve always been like, "I wanna skate, I wanna skate!” Then I was like, "Whoa.. I’m here now." Then I’m like, “whatever," and I wanna learn this new thing now.
Where’d you get that kind of drive?
My dad was working a lot and my mom was there and was a badass raising 5 kids. I was also kind of a loaner. I was left alone to do what I wanted. So being by myself, I’d do things that I wanted. There is freedom as a loaner. I had nobody telling me what to do, so I’d walk around with cowboy boots and underwear, you know?
2010. What was that year like being "skater of the year"?
That kinda happened by chance. I quit Baker and got on Toy Machine. Toy Machine was working on a video, so I put out two video parts. Before that, they had me lined up to be in the running and that wasn’t the pressure I wanted. Of course I was honored, but being put in the running for SOTY was just pressure I didn’t want, because I'm terrible with that. My main focus was to do good videos for my sponsors and it just so happened that I worked my ass off for the videos and they were successful. I was honored and stoked, but the idea of "skater of the year" was terrifying to me and I didn't want to think about it.
You show so much grit in your skating.
Cool - I want that to translate. Skateboarding is that kind of activity where you can get smoked and so you say, "Okay, I'm gonna try this and this"... it's a trial and error thing. I don’t think of myself as a stylish skater. I don’t think of it as an art form - who am I to say it's art? And who am I to say it's not a sport? If a kid wants to do Street League, that's cool. Skating is what you want it to be. In an average blue collar work world, I don’t want to be a person who just skates really cool. That's not art - to be comfortable and to skate cool and to be a pussy. You're just riding your own stylish coat tail. I’d rather be the "guy rolling on the floor dirty" kinda guy going for it. With musicians like Dylan, it's these people who work really hard to get out of their comfort zones who I dig. They’re more free because they let it all out there, you know?
I don’t want to have direction. I want to write and throw things at a dart board and see what sticks. I think I got it from skateboarding, where I like being surprised and not knowing what's going to happen, but adjusting and you end up down a road and you're doing a Blues song. Then it's something else later. To adapt to things is a good thing. You have to use your mind to figure it out and you can bring it back to where you started. It changes all the time. We like the live atmosphere and we always have a set list, but some nights if the other people are bringing it, then we gotta go for it. And once we start playing, we go and adjust and change. We wanted to keep up the pace and out of respect to the previous bands who were killing it. We were going for it.
What are your musical roots?
I started listening to blues, Bob Dylan, folk music, and Americana. I was about 17 or 18 when I got into it and it just stuck with me. Americana sticks with you because it's heritage. It affects what music you listen to, what art you make, and your fashion. Fashion is art. Self expression - you can express yourself in many different ways, like skating and music