The Art of Heroin

Mark Foster, or Fos, as most of you know him, is a skateboarder/business owner/ and occasional musician. You may know him from his company Heroin or his artwork that your favorite brand may have brought him on for. But, Heroin and Fos are what Brian and I consider SkatePunk. Fos is a go-getter that puts his heart and soul into his companies, and while the music choice for the brands’ videos may not fall under the category, Fos does. I have had the fortune to meet Fos in person twice, and the love for skateboarding is so strong it kind of pulls you in. 

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Best/Worst thing about running a brand?

Being able to do whatever you want, not really having to answer to anyone as far as the direction and all that. Heroin is 100% my vision of skateboarding, and I’m lucky to be able to share that with everyone. The worst thing is that it’s sometimes tricky to stay on top of it all and make ends meet. You have to sell four boards for every one that you give to a team rider, so it’s really tough for it to constantly be profitable.

How has quarantine been treating you?

Well, I work from home, so it’s not a vast change for me. I haven’t got out to skate as much as I’d like, really, but I’m doing a whole lot of drawing and working on my first comic book. 

Oh nice, can you share anything about it?

It’s a very stripped-down horror story about an eye. It should be fun. 

Your art style is known for the scratchy style but, you recently made that cabin art series. Do you ever feel locked into art for your own brand?

Never, I have total freedom within it. Like the Cabin-series was a huge hit, but then something fairly simple like the Egg board also resonates well with people. It’s kind of my full-time gig right now, and it’s really nice that I can sketch stuff out and apply different styles according to what works for the graphic and rider.

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You’ve spoken about having made art and pitching it to brands. Have you used any of those works for your own brands? 

Ha, yeah, happens a lot. I pitched a shark series to Santa Cruz, and they passed, then I used it for Heroin, and then the first cabin series I insanely pitched to Girl and Element, and thankfully, both of them passed, and it ended up being one of the best Heroin series.

Are there artists you’d like to have series for Heroin?

I just did a big collab with Charles Forsman, who did “The End of the Fucking World” and “I am not okay with this” comics and well as “Revenger,” which is a great comic. So I’m excited for that to come out. I am not really looking for artists because I’m enjoying working on it all myself right now. If I’m ever in a pinch, I feel like I hit up Hirotton, Enemy, or French and get them in, I like all their work, and it matches the brand.

You seem to collect a lot of Heroin boards; how big is your collection?

I just want to keep one of each for my records, really. It’s not a consciously “Collecting” thing, and I’m definitely running out of space, so I need to figure something out with that. As far as how big it is, I probably have 300 boards here and 200 in storage in London. They add up because I get boards from Heroin, as well as all the freelance boards that I do too.

Do you collect all the boards or a select few? 

I can’t really collect much outside of all the Heroin boards, and then one of all the Freelance boards that I’ve done. I did get a Santa Cruz x Gwar board the other day, though!

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What are your grails or boards that you’re stoked on from your collection?

I had an Anti Hero Sean Young spider board in 1995, and my friend had bought it from Sean and brought it over to the U.K., and it was always one of my favorite boards that I’d ever ridden. He was always one of my favorite riders too. I tried for years to find a brand new one but never managed to find any. A few years ago, someone tagged me in a post, and I ended up getting one. It’s hung on my wall. That’s really the only board that I felt like I needed strongly.

Heroin has been doing shapes for a while, some riders have their own shapes, and there are team shapes. What’s the process to develop them? Do you design a shape, and a rider calls dibs?

I work on the shapes. Sometimes riders suggest ideas like I’ve worked on custom shapes with Tom Day and other riders. We go back and forth with the factory and get samples, and I test them to make sure they work. It’s a lot of fun. 

Have you ever been inspired by older shapes to create any for the Heroin lineup? 

Sure, usually shapes, I grew up skating. There are good things and bad things about them. Like the inch-long noses weren’t really functional, it’s important to try and take the good elements of them and not the bad.

Is the goal, or would you be open for riders to all have their own kind of shape? Similar to how things were in the 80s? 

I always offer riders the chance to make shapes. Me and Dead Dave worked on the Mutant shape together. He liked the Behemoth Shape and wanted to see what it was like if we added money bumps, so that was an easy one, really. I enjoy working on shapes. Some of the riders are just really happy riding our popsicles.

You are known for bigger shapes (boy, do those egg-shaped boards fly off the shelves). Do you plan on making smaller shapes?

I just worked on a 7.9 Egg! That’s coming in April. That’s the smallest board I’ve done in a long time. Most of our riders ride bigger boards, like 8.5-10, so I just make boards that they will want to ride, really.

7.9? Wow, that’s tiny. But Heroin has various shapes to choose from; do you see the brand having smaller boards soon? 

No, I don’t see us doing any smaller boards, really, Keeping things 8.5, and up I think. The 7.9 is a one-off. I just send it at 11 to the factory today too.

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Have the board shortages affected the development of shapes at the moment?

Not too much. It’s more a problem getting a steady supply of boards to the shops. I just got some new samples from the factory the other day.

With skateboarding reaching such an open space, what are the predictions you have for the industry?

Hard to say how it’s going to go. Things are great right now, but prices from the factories are riding, so I think we might see a rise all around. There are people thinking we might see a bit of a recession at some point, but things are pretty good at the moment, so we should make the most of it.

I don’t see consistent shirts or apparel for Heroin. Is that on purpose? 

We have two new shirts every season; that’s just what we are allocated by Baker Boys. They send me a request form for what they want each drop, and I sort it all out. We have a different system in the U.K., and I end up making a complete Apparel line sheet for them. So there’s some U.K. stuff that’s exclusive to that country. 

With such a limited space, do you use the U.K. line to feel something out and cherry-pick for the U.S.?

It’s more like the other way around; I figure out what works in the U.S. and apply it to the U.K. and expand on it.

I know brands have meetings but, what’s it like having to schedule one with such an international present team? Also, what’s it like having Deerman in those meetings? Does he show up in the whole mask thing?

We’ve never really had meetings. I’m not really one for meetings. Our riders are spread all over the world, and one of the things that I like about them is that they’re doing their own thing and self-motivated, and I never really want to impose too much on that in any way. 

If there aren’t team meetings, how does the team check-in about making a video? Do they send you footy, and you put something out?

Each rider deals with me directly. I put all the videos together and have the pieces in place for making it. Like Deer Man will film and edit his parts with the Barrier Kult crew, I worked with a filmer called Forde in the U.K. on the Dead Dave part, he sent me the footage, and I put it together. So really, just look at things individually.

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Speaking of videos, you recently released the whole Heroin library on Vimeo. Thank you and, is that the plan for future releases? 

This year we don’t have a plan for a video, but we have about six parts all coming out online throughout the year that the riders are working on themselves. I’d like to put out more short, fun videos, but it just depends on which riders are motivated and have footage and someone that they can film with.

What are songs you’ve wanted to clear for videos but weren’t able, due to rights/price?

Rudimentary Peni wanted to use Cosmetic Plague for a Craig part, and they said they don’t let their music be used for commercial purposes. Shame really, I like that song.

Snot Wheels was recently announced; how did that come about? 

Dead Dave didn’t have a wheel sponsor, so I decided to make a wheel brand with him, where we can make some fun stuff. The shops were having a hard time getting wheels too, so I wanted to work with them directly and help them out.

You have mentioned in previous interviews you started making wheels because you weren’t able to get any good ones. Did you keep the formulas the same or made changes?

We found a great factory for Heroin 20 years ago, so we’re using them for Snot; it’s all US-made hot poured urethane; I’ve ridden it for years, it’s good stuff. We have a few new formulas that I’m trying out too.

Should we expect a video part from Dave and Jake?

Probably some kind of little promo at the end of the year.

How did the postcard thing come about?

Kind of accidentally really, I just thought it would be nice to reach out to the shops personally, and the postcard seemed like a nice idea. I thought it was a good idea until I was 45 in and my hand was hurting, but I think it’s worth it.

I’m sure the card thing was tiring but, I think that’s what makes your brand as a whole special. I’ve hopped on a few I.G. lives, and you, more often than not, tend to answer every single incoming question. It just shows the magic and love in the brands and collaborations you do. 

Thanks, Julio. Yeah, I wanted to talk with the shops a bit more directly, and I think they appreciated it for sure. 

Any advice to anyone starting a brand?

Yeah, don’t give everything away right out of the gate. People start things for the wrong reasons; they want to sponsor their friends, and it’s a slippery slope and easy to give away thousands of dollars worth of product before you’ve even sold anything. For every board you can give away, you need to sell four to pay for it. 

What’s next for you this year?

Super busy with Snot and Heroin. First wheels arrive next month, and so I’m shipping them all out myself. So I’m figuring out the business side of all that, which is something I’ve been away from for a little while. Going to be working with the shops more closely, so I’m looking forward to that. I’m also working on my first comic book. 

Thank you, Fos, for taking the time for this interview and all the other questions I asked. I can’t wait to pick up a set of Snot wheels when they come out and a Heroin board or two! Much love, and see you at the next video premiere!

More about Heroin Skateboards: http://www.heroinskateboarding.com

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