A Conversation With Rob Brink

Hailing from Jersey and now residing on the opposite side of the country, Rob Brink has worn many hats in skateboarding and outside of it. While a more recent generation knows him for his time on the Weekend Buzz, he was a writer. He continues to be a writer and recently wrote an interview on Monster Children that you should check out. 

Photo by Bryce Kanights

How has the quarantine been treating you? Any quarantine hobbies?

Loving it to be honest. Getting lots done. Working, skating, watching movies, reading, chilling with my dog. Bought a few airguns. A rifle and a pistol. Something I always wanted since I was a kid so I guess that’s a new hobby? Bought some new audio recording equipment … microphones and such (hint, hint). So maybe that’s a new hobby? The productivity and extra free time that’s come from this pandemic is something I always wanted. That said, I have a sense of guilt admitting that. I know there are people having a really hard time right now. I hate seeing what’s going on in the world and seeing people suffering with COVID and all the police brutality and racism going on. Oppression. People ignoring climate change … all of it is so vile and I have to tune it out for my own sanity to be honest. I avoid the news and politics at all costs and I make donations on behalf of The Hundredth Acre whenever I can to do my part because I’m not necessarily out there protesting and so on. Common sense and the Golden Rule are two incredibly easy things that would make this world a substantially better place. I’m not sure what the fuck people’s problem is. It’s not that difficult to NOT be an asshole.

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What’s your set-up?

I’m on a custom shape by Paul Schmitt. It’s an 8.25 917 shape from 2015 that I loved, but on super flat wood with a delayed kick. I hate steep noses and tails. I like a mold like the old prime wood from back in the day. Blue stains on all of them too, my fav. He made me a huge box of them. I ride 51/52 Formula Fours. Thunder Hi Titanium 147 silver, Bones Swiss. Full sheet of plain black MOB. Simple. Also ride Real or Primitive 8.25s when I can get em. The Primitive’s are BBS but have a flatter nose and tail than the DLX stuff. But they both do a pretty rad full 8.25 that isn’t pointy or square.

Favorite Video Part?

I hate picking one when it comes to these questions. Ocean in Next Gen. Dylan Gravis, Gino Snuff. Alien Workshop in The Cinematographer Project is fucking incredible and I believe, slept on. So many ridiculous Koston, Daewon, Guy, MJ, Creager, Carroll parts though … you know? All the Old World/Blind/101/Plan B Vids, the old New Deal vids, I love the 89-93 era the most. 

Any film and music recommendations?

Geez. I mean, prob nothing you never heard of. Other than my post rock stuff most of what I listen to is older 80s and 90s stuff. Depeche Mode, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Deftones, Tool, Cocteau Twins, New Order … There isn’t a lot of “new” music that impresses me. And mainly seems like these days all that comes out is rap or pop. But I love Godspeed You Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky. Check out Crosses or Team Sleep or Puscifer maybe.

Film wise … Cafe De Flore. To The Wonder. Tree of Life. Thin Red Line. Immortal Beloved. Magnolia. There Will Be Blood. Whiplash. Nocturnal Animals. The Florida Project. Mother!, Sharp Objects (series), Trainspotting 2, Joker, Choke, Gone Girl, Natural Born Killers, I Tonya, Eye Origins, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The list goes on, I ignored movies for a really long time once I got into skating and in the past few years have taken a real liking to film and have been watching 2 films a night, sort of studying the writing and everything. Would be amazing to have a book or screenplay of mine made into a film.

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Thanks for sharing This Will Destroy You, it may or may not have helped me impress a lady or two.

Good. Always happy to wingman.

Go to beer/drink?

Favorite beers … This one doesn’t even exist in the US anymore. Fischer Amber from France. I’m not sure if it exists at all but about 10 years ago when they stopped distributing in the US I was fucking devastated. Other favorite beer, Allagash Interlude. It’s a brett aged in red wine barrels. It’s like $30 a bottle (maybe a little more than a pint) and it only comes out in the fall, so I usually buy a case or 2 and it lasts me all year if I only drink on special occasions. Oh and I love Einstock White and Franziskaner Hef. Drink-wise … Nolet’s or Botantist gin and soda with a lime is my go to. Red wines too … although I’m not super well versed in wine yet. I don’t drink much these days though, the hangovers last too long. Happy with my tea.

Favorite written piece?

I mean, besides the stuff mentioned above, more on a short story tip, because it’s my favorite format … ”Thanksgiving in Mongolia” by Ariel Levy is very powerful. It’s everything I love about writing. It’s just raw and real and visceral. “Zombie” by Palahniuk is amazing. So is “Fetch” or “Expedition”. All the pieces in “A Massive Swelling” by Cintra Wilson. I read a story once called “Gentleman can wash Their Hands in the Gents” early in college that I have never been able to find again but I loved it. I’m not sure if the author was gay but it is about a son trying to come out to his father. It was at a point when I was briefly questioning my own sexuality, kind of wondering if I was into women and maybe men, although I never acted on it, and really kinda hit me. As time passed I realized I can totally appreciate attractive men and say it but I have no desire to date or hook up with men. If someone’s nice to look at they are nice to look at, regardless of gender … what can I say?

Favorite piece you’ve written?

Man, I don’t know. I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of articles and interviews. I tend to forget them all these days. I like the Asa Akira interview. I love the interview I did with Caswell for The Skateboard Mag, all the stuff I did for Missbehave was cool, interviewing female celebrities for the most part. Lizzy Kaplan was really cool, So was Jena Malone and Regina Spektor. I love that I was able to interview BA for Playboy when he came out. It was rad interviewing Dill and Austyn for them too. Writing for a non-skate publication and audience presents new challenges and allows me to handle things in a different way than I would if it’s a skate piece … which I like.

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How did the Playboy thing happen?

At some point I was in between jobs … maybe after The Hundreds but before I branched out to work for a protein drink/powder brand for a while. And I was on LinkedIn and happened to run across the profile of a woman in the I.T. dept. at Playboy and I hit her up and asked if she knew of any digital/social media job openings. She saw on my profile that I was a writer and was like “Why don’t I just introduce you to the editors!” I was like “Wow okay thanks.” Once I got introduced I pitched about 20 people for interviews. Including Dill, Dylan, Bobby Hundreds and others that I felt might fit the Playboy vibe. They turned them all down. Not that I gave up but I didn’t have anyone else in my wheelhouse to pitch so I kinda just held off. Strangely, like 6 or 8 months later, they hit me back and wanted Dill, they wanted Bobby Hundreds, they ended up asking about Austyn when Former started up, and when BA came out I pitched him and they were down. So all those pieces happened in a pretty short amount of time. Pretty rad.

What led you to become a writer?

You know … now that I have had my diagnoses and have been sort of revisiting my past and how everything has transpired because of my autism and depression … I am beginning to wonder if the reasons I became a writer are different than I always thought. I’ve answered this a bunch but it sort of came on accident because I knew, even though I was sponsored, that I’d never be pro … and at the same time I was in college and failing my Environmental Science major so I switched to Writing on a whim when a professor of mine was telling me she felt I write well. It all came out of nowhere and really quickly. I did it because I just wanted to not be failing everything like I had been since high school, and because I was wasting time and money in college on a degree that wasn’t working. And that is still true, but I’m also wondering, if since communication and social skills have always been so awkward or difficult for me with my autism, that I was drawn to writing because it was easier for me, and a way that I succeeded, not only in a career sense, but also just in a communicative sense. I’m also interested in and enjoy being able to tell stories that people enjoy or helps them … sometimes I do it with another person via interview, other times its a prose piece or fiction. Also, I just had faith it was a way I could make a living in the skate industry and be around skateboarding for as long as possible. Turns out I was right

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In regards to wanting to share stories, a while ago you interviewed Skate Moss, Hilary Shanks, Jennifer Charlene and Brianna King. How did this interview come about?

The 1888 Center that hosted the event is near where I went back for my next master’s degree. Chapman University. It’s a really cool little workspace/cafe/writing center/gallery space/bookstore and publisher. They had been asking me for a while to work together and that was the concept we came up with. Live interviews with an audience that can come and hang and meet the guests and then we tape it for podcast so non local people can enjoy. I actually still love the idea, I hated the pressure of filling that room up with spectators. It’s an anxiety I don’t need while trying to make these interviews happen and be good. But all of those girls are amazing and it was a super fun night. About 50 or so people showed up, some were so stoked and nervous to meet the girls, it was really cool to see. I think some of the girls even connected with some brands and got modeling gigs.

(To annoy the girl I’m talking to at the moment) How’s Victoria in person? Is she single, asking for a friend? haha

Why would you want to annoy the girl you are talking to with another girl? Either way, Victoria is rad. Ambitious. Great personality. Brave. Loves fashion. She’s super cute, looks like a living cartoon at times with those big eyes. Can’t wait to see what she does with her ideas. I think she will be quite successful. I love seeing all those girls do their thing. I was watching for a while before I asked them to do that event. I think it’s a tight, cool little crew they have. Not sure if she’s single. Slide into her DMs and battle 4,000 other dudes and chicks for her attention and find out.

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Do you plan on writing your own book?

I started it in 2016 when I started my second masters degree. There’s probably 4-5 chapters done. But a film project came along that I am the head writer on so I have been working on that instead. But with the pandemic, I have been home a lot and getting so much work done and clearing so many lingering tasks off my plate that I will have a lot more free time soon to pick up writing some more. I don’t know what will be come of the “book” idea. We’ll see … I’m a fan of letting things just run their course organically. I have written and published so much more than I ever imagined I would … and worked with so many more people than I would have ever predicted … So if something doesn’t work out or come to fruition, I am not bummed. I am more stoked to come up with ideas, try them and see what happens. Go with the momentum you know? I didn’t expect The Hundredth Acre to work either but 4 years later it’s bigger than ever. So my energy goes there for now and I am pretty sure I am going to tinker with a new interview project very, very soon.

Is this the Olympic related thing you traveled around the US for? 

No. That was a road trip I was doing personally for my birthday last year. But since Toyota game me a car (thanks TOYOTA!) because they sponsor the US National Team and I work for them, we decided it was a cool opportunity for me to travel to some shops and parks and promote the organization and vehicle a bit while I was at it!

How’d the Toyota thing come about?

They sponsor USA Skateboarding. I work for USA Skateboarding. They hook us up with a bunch of vehicles each year or so as part of the deal. I was lucky enough to get one!

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You have said that Howard Stern is an influence for interviews but, is there anyone else that has inspired you?

I used to have some interview heroes and inspirations in the industry but as time goes on and you meet them and are let down or maybe their caliber of work changes, or my standard changes and so does that feeling of being influenced you know? I more look at other stuff as a reminder or reinforcement of what I don’t want to do—mistakes I don’t want to make, repetition in the space I want to avoid, or because something isn’t my vibe. I just turned down a TV show project for that reason, where I could have been on national prime time TV. Not because it wasn’t cool but because the style of interview was really chit chatty and basic, which is not my approach at all. These days my only influence or inspiration is me trying to do better than the last thing I did and just improving the craft of interviewing. Making sure I am following my vision of how it should be done, which is ever-changing. And also making sure I am only taking projects I want to do. When you are coming up you should be taking everything, building a portfolio, making money, getting experience and meeting people you know? You gotta be hungry. I worked my ass of for many years so that I don’t have to sit there doing Ryan Seacrest small talk shit, asking people when their next part is dropping or how they feel about winning a contest or trying to ask gossipy “shots fired” type questions to create cheap drama you know? That’s low-risk creative and it’s done ad nauseam.

Subsequently, who’s an interviewer that is closest representative of what not to do when it comes to interviews?

Joe Rogan. He looks for any opportunity to talk about himself and compare his past or career to what the guest is speaking about. Sometimes that’s cool and conversational to do, other times it’s like … stop making it about you and stepping all over the guest. I have watched maybe 3 episodes of his show and the amount times he says “Yeah that’s just like in stand up comedy” to his guests and goes into some weird comparison when they are trying to talk is infuriating. I don’t find him to always be sincere or genuine either. There’s something sort of false and smug about his approach. Maybe it’s because there is a blatant attempt to seem cool and casual and tight with the guest? I dunno. I find him to be incredibly overrated and annoying to listen to and have only tuned in if someone I am absolutely a huge fan of is on the show. If it weren’t for how interesting and talented a lot of his guests are, and how they KNOW how to be engaging in an interview setting, his show wouldn’t be even close to as successful as it is. But then again, popularity isn’t necessarily indicative of talent or good taste.

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Can you share any stories on working behind the scenes in skateboarding? Who sucked to work for?

Sole Tech and Element were pretty negative experiences for me. Mainly because to get to work for a company you admire or are excited about is a dream come true and then you settle in and see a lot of lame shit and it’s heartbreaking. Money comes first. That’s the point of a business, of course, but I think there are respectful, ethical and ways to go about it while treating others with dignity or not being blatantly hypocritical or deceptive to the community that supports you. I saw a lot of instances when fellow skaters (riders and employees) could have been treated better and with more respect considering the revenue they generate for the company and the time and work they put in, and that is upsetting to me. But my belief in any situation, not just the brands I mentioned, is that if you treat skateboarding well, skateboarding will take care of you back, and you see the results of that, or lack thereof, in the skateboarding industry every day. Even the public sees it now, which I think is critical. They see riders jumping ship or brands shrinking or disappearing and so on … that shit happens for a reason … not just cuz some other brand threw a lot of money around or came onto the scene. People leave places for a reason and it’s not when they feel valuable and happy and respected and like they are able to participate and be heard. When a brand suffers or goes out of business they most likely did it to themselves. There is no one else to blame. That said, I had great experiences with so many people I have worked with … Primitive, Ride Channel, The Skateboard Mag, TransWorld, Strength, Skateboarder, Jenkem, Ty Evans, SPOT, Red Bull,  Boardr, Jamie Thomas, Skate Mental or Monster Children, Playboy, DLX, Vans, ESPN … I’ve worked with so many brands and people in the last 20 years. Things are awesome with USA Skateboarding now too. The majority of the time things are cool and I’m thankful to be here still.

How did the Thunder ad come about?

I have been really close friends with Jim Thiebaud ever since the Johnny Romano thing started. That’s how we met. I contacted him to help and sent a donation and we became friends. Fast forward a few years later, a bunch of Thunder riders got on etnies … Malto, Mikey, Bledsoe, etc … so I was on trips with the team a lot and skating and Manzoori was filming me. Just for fun during sessions. I sent Jim some footy as a joke with the email title “Even bloggers ride Thunders,” because at the time I think I was more known for my blog than anything … this was like 2008, pre-Weekend Buzz. And they made that into an ad in their digital catalog and stuff. More of a joke than anything. It’s not like they offered me a commercial and I went out and filmed for it. 

Can we expect a part two?

No. I suck. Go check the #robbrinkdoesntevenskate hashtag on IG to see old footage of me landing actual tricks.

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Any advice for any kids trying to make it in the industry?

I dunno. Is my advice relevant? I’m old and non-traditional. If I knew what I was doing I’d have a famous podcast or accessory-turned-streetwear brand right now and be rich. I have just always believed in hard work for the right reasons. If you are genuine and true and real … and you love what you do and put the work in, you will be rewarded in some way, shape or form. But also don’t be afraid to reach out and show your work to people in the industry and ask for opportunities. You might be surprised how many people respond or are willing to help or give you a chance.

Any closing comments you would like to end this interview with?

Shalom.

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