A resume of the following interview was originally featured in the print Krak Mag issue 5 that shipped with KrakBox #5 in December 2015. Don’t want to miss the next issue of the print Krak Mag? Want to receive epic skateboarding product every two months? Check out the KrakBox now!
When you think about Europe and about skateboarding, sooner or later you end up talking about Cliché. That’s an unbeatable fact and it’s always true. This is even more true when you think about France, and Lyon. I was super happy to come back to my hometown to visit their office where I had this interview / meeting with Jeremie Daclin. Eric Frenay was there also and oh… let’s not forget Bouba The Dog. He was a part of this moment, too. Thanks for having me at your place guys. k.
So what’s the story behind Cliché?
Before I started Cliché I was the owner of a skateshop. I was also skating at a European level. Thus I was aware of both the pro-skaters and shops’ business needs. Hence the idea to start Cliché. This was a good way to bridge the gap, offering affordable products to European skaters while supporting the local scene. With Cliché, European skateboarders could stop relying exclusively on the US to make a living out of their passion.
I guess you were one of the first. Especially since everything skate related was from the US back then.
Yeah everything was really US centric. JB (Gillet) for instance, he was living in Lyon but in order to make a living out of skateboarding he had to go to the US and be sponsored by a brand there. So there really was a need for a European player and here we are.
Was your shop based in Lyon too?
Yep. It was located in the street called Rue Desiree, right next to ‘All Access’.
When did you close it exactly?
I started in 1995 with a partner but then we broke up. He kept running the shop and I started Cliché.
Wow! In 1995, had ABS been launched yet? How about Wall Street? (cf. popular skateshops in Lyon)
ABS was there already. Wall Street started in 1997 I think.
Where does the name “Cliché” come from? As a french guy I can see some references of course.
First comes the “é” accent. We wanted to make it sound french, this way we really pointed out the difference. Especially since you never use any accent in english. And yes, the word itself has a story. As a skateboarder, you always work in pair with a photographer or a filmer, you spend most of your time together. As a skateboarder myself, I met a lof of them and I really enjoyed hanging out with them. Think about your immediate reaction when you two are seeing a spot for the very first time. You only think about that cliché you could get out of it (in french, a cliché is a picture, a shot).
Did you start it alone?
Yep I was alone, making literally everything. Eric joined in 2001, and he’s still responsible for every artistic aspect of Cliché. Everything we create goes through his computer. Even when we happen to work with other artists, he keeps an eye on everything.
(Eric): I’m from Lyon so you know, Jeremie was really like the OG when I was a kid. So I was really into it when the opportunity to work with him arose.
Lastly, there is Al Boglio, who is based in the US at the Dwindle office. He’s the Brand Manager. Al had a pretty similar experience than me, back in Australia. He had launched and was running a skateboarding brand called Time Skateboards, but stopped after some time. He came to Europe to travel and was more or less looking for a job at that time; that’s how I ended up hiring him.
And you’re still working all together. That’s a pretty nice story.
Indeed. If you wanna know the truth my experience showed me that it was way better to work with people whom you really get along with. It never worked with all the people that I tried to hire based on their resume etc. Like if we don’t go out at night together, enjoy beers, it ends up not working.
What’s your role today? I guess it evolved a lot along the years.
Because I always keep skating a lot I stay involved in the team. So basically my role is to take care of the team, and organise our tours.
When did you move in this office?
4 or 5 years ago.
(Eric): in 2009
Before that, were you in another office or working from home?
Nope we always had an office. The main difference is that we used to store our inventory. Which means we needed big offices – we used one in Villeurbanne where we even had a mini-ramp and we stored all our boards. This was really different back then because we were ordering our stuff and receiving everything here in Lyon. From there, we would ship the products to distributors and shops. Meanwhile we managed to design and create what was coming next.
Now we don’t need to store anymore; Dwindle manages that part. We only have a very small stock here; mainly for the team. We also have a flat upstairs for the riders to crash when they come here to film etc.
I remember Mikendo had great things to say about it; pretty cool anecdotes too (laughs!).
Haha yep. The location is great, we’re right in the city-center so when people are staying here, they can easily party and skate. Everything great is walking distance from our office, that’s way more fun.
Let’s dig a little bit into Cliché full-length videos.
Back in the days, working on a video was really considered as a huge project. Internet changed everything, and we started to make edits only for this new medium. For instance, we launched the LA Promo exclusively on the web and back then we reached 100K views, which was considered quite an awesome result. Then we went on tours, filmed and made some edits, web only too. Clearly, things had changed.
Was Europa your first full-length?
Yes. In 2000.
Such a memory for me. This was my first VHS. What’s the story behind it? What made you decide “ok, let’s make a full-length video”?
Here’s the story. Back then, there was Puzzle. Ben Derennes was the one filming. He came to me one day to make a ‘pro spotlight’ about me or something. But I was working like hell, packing boxes as well, shipping stuff like every day, calling shops, so I was like why not but honestly I don’t have time right now. And I suggested “why wouldn’t you make a Cliché video instead?”. This was way better for me and I didn’t need to skate, the others had to, haha! That’s how it started.
Did you already have a team back then?
Yep. A video project clears things inside a team. This is a moment of truth. You see who’s really motivated, who really wants to get involved.
Tell us what happened backstage. Once you decided to make that video, what happened next? Did you call all the riders with guidelines, deadline and stuff?
Well Europa was special. I told you the story. It was also the first video from Europe including the same foundation that we are used to see nowadays, with full parts etc. It really lacked structure back in the days. For example I’ve had tricks in a couple of New Deal’s videos but it was like, the guy was coming to your city in the morning and leaving that same evening. So you basically had to land all your tricks in just one day. What was different with Europa is that we were going on trips and filming every day. You have to keep in mind that at the same time, Fred Mortagne was filming the éS video and he was filming a lot around Lyon. So it was like everyone was skating the same spots, and you had riders from Cliché landing more or less the same tricks than the éS riders. Imagine for a second, we were no one at that time and one day, people realized that we were skating the same spots as Rodrigo Tx. This had a huge impact. This was the beginning of the Barcelona scene as well.
One more thing was the fact that people didn’t have Internet back then. And they were not traveling that much. So our video had a kind of exotic twist. It worked very well in the US. It was fresh actually. People were discovering new spots.
Hmm that’s true, lots of european spots in Menikmati. In Sorry too.
Yeah definitely. Everyone was coming to Lyon.
Following Europa’s impact, were you thinking about rushing into a second one?
Not really. I mean, video is obviously something you want to make when you’re into skateboarding. Cliché has always been deep into video. For sure medium has changed but action is still the same. Even when you post something on Instagram, you’re like filming. Joey (Brezinsky) is maybe even more involved into making IG videos than a true part but I mean, after all, you’re still landing tricks in front of a camera, so this is pretty much the same thing.
Another thing is, back then, you had like 5 videos a year. One release had a true impact. Now you watch a new video every week at least, so it’s harder to make a dent.
Are you still motivated to work on the full-length format? or you’re like “not anymore”?
Yeah that depends. You know we didn’t plan all our full-length actually. Like the ‘Freedom Fries’ we released it right after the ‘Bon Appetit’ because we were on the trend, we were filming a lot and one day we realized we had a lot of footages so we made another video.
I can see that the process is way less rigid than I thought.
Do you have any favorite video among all your full-length?
Hmm all of them are great. The best one will be the next to come, haha!
Perfect answer. What is actually the main challenge?
By far the hardest thing is to try to reinvent yourself each time. Like you always have a new project in mind, something exciting. If you always offer the same thing, it starts to become really boring for people. This thing is also hard for riders. When they film a video part, they have to try to land new tricks. Because when you’re famous for one specific thing, everyone is expecting you on that thing. And you can’t be delivering only what’s expected from you, otherwise people get bored. That’s the same for a company, you have to find ways to surprise people.
I’ve always liked one thing with your video: context. It’s not only about tricks: you also share the overall experience that the group’s been living. At the end you start feeling like you’re a group of friends going through a true life experience. Well, you bring the human side of it to the table.
(Eric): This is Jeremie’s impact, he really manages this aspect haha!
Seriously, we really live it as a group of friends. I remember Mikendo was surprised that we went out, had dinner together. I don’t know, this might be something french, but for sure this is way more friendly. And then people outside the group felt this. It brings into the play that little thing. We were all living in the same van. We loved this. We all skate the same spots. It’s not like this guy is going there to film this and this one is going over there to film that.
You seem to have a special relationship with the gypsy lifestyle. Where does it come from?
Everything started with Pontus (Alv) complaining about the hotels you know, like they weren’t good enough. So one day I told him “well, you know what, next time we’ll go on tour the same way I used to do with my friends: on the road”. Unfortunately he wasn’t on the team anymore when we started the Gypsy tour. We had in mind reality shows and we wanted to reveal our behind-the-scene experience. Because at the end of the day, it’s not only about tricks, it’s about everything else; we wanted to highlight the journey to the spot: from making sure not to be kicked out by local security guards, to cleaning the spot, from shifting stuff to removing water and finally: perform that trick.
Could we now say that the Van Tour is part of Cliché DNA?
I don’t know but it was funny for sure. And actually this was pretty original back then, so it worked out. Now people forget about it because you have Thrasher and its King of the Road tour -among others- but again: taking people on a tour in a van was really new at that time.
Well that’s true. The interesting thing today though is that a lot of companies start to sell the van tour but digging deeper you realize that folks were travelling on a kind of rockstar, comfy bus you know. Haha!
Any specific anecdote?
Plenty of them haha! It’s always a challenge to get enough food for everyone. You need to get creative…
How long would a tour last on average?
It depends. We don’t have any schedule honestly. The last one for example we even voted you know. Like we asked the question and everyone took part of it: “should we continue or stop here?”.
And how did the riders like this format? I mean this is quite an experience.
That’s pretty funny. Last time for instance, a lot of them had never slept in a tent prior to the tour. This was a brand new experience for them, haha! But they got used to it pretty quickly. They ended up sleeping well, and now they know how to dismantle a tent!
Is your next tour already planned?
Well we’re currently adapting this format a bit. Like we do more small tours which are based on series of decks we release at the same time. As for the decks themselves, we try to work more and more with artists.
For instance we’re working with an artist right now who’s one of Lucas’ (Puig) friend. We are going to Toulouse next Tuesday and Lucas is looking for a spot where we’ll build a new part in concrete. Then the artist will paint it and we’ll ride it. We’ll make an edit of this session and it’ll be launched at the same time we release the collection of decks. So we do this kind of tours now.
We just finished one in Paris, where we had organized a little exhibition and skate around the city with the artist Jean Andre.
Hmm I see. Sounds really cool. You actually launch your deck collections with little tours.
Voila. And we continue to film a lot but we release a lot of short videos instead of keeping everything warm for a longer one later down the road.
You’re closer to a web format consequently.
Exactly. We are using the web format more and more, in order to market our products. But it’s a lot of work. Especially for Eric. Imagine you still have all the graphic images to create, so even if the videos are shorter, the work behind-the-scene is pretty much the same as for a longer video. At the end of the day, it ends up being way way more work (laughs!). You also have to edit them, think about the music and stuff.
Would you try to bring all the riders each time?
Nope it depends on the collection of decks we launch. Who’s the pro on that specific collection. Of course it’s easier in Europe because we have our van here.
And France is pretty easy for this kind of trips. Like we just went to Switzerland; it’s super easy from here to go to Spain.
You’re actually in love with the Schengen area.
Yeah. And Lyon has a very cool geographical situation, it’s really central.
Isn’t it hard sometimes for your US riders not to be here with you on these trips?
Yep indeed. That’s why we try hard every summer to make them come here to Europe. Like last summer Joey (Brezinski) was around.
You’ve seen the scene changing these past 20 years, what do you think about all these new european brands? Are you happy with this trend?
Oh yeah I’m stoked with this dynamic. I love brands like Polar for instance. They make videos, they go on tours as well. I really like the fact that these brands nurture the skateboarding industry. Skateboarding is a whole ecosystem with skateboarders but also photographers, filmers, shops, magazines, music etc. On the other hand, I don’t like these super tiny brands who only make 100 boards and sell them hands to hands. Because those brands would never advertise in a magazine, they kinda create an unfair competition with shops. A true skateboarding company has to pay its riders, photographers, pay for advertising. That’s what makes people like you live from it. And in this industry, we all rely on each other.
I see. Fortunately we’ve seen more and more true skateboarding brands rising these past 10 years in Europe.
That’s true. And I like this. We also need competition, you know. We need that fertile ground to build great things. Fortunately, the ground has been pretty dynamic in Europe these years. You can find some good stuff such as Polar, Palace, Sour etc.
For the Gypsy Life video, did you give extra attention to the music?
Well you know it’s the same desire to be able to pay everyone. That’s why we try to put the videos on iTunes. That way, we’re able to pay the people behind the music we’ve used. That’s a problem with the web in general, you know. People take a bit of this, use a bit of that and mix everything. But at the end, artists don’t get paid. That’s why iTunes makes sense for us. For the Bon Voyage video we asked 2-3 artists friends to create something. Pedro Winter -Ed Banger Records founder- gave us a couple of songs for free. He was the first guy we thought about each time we started working on a new project. And that’s how he ended up making 4 exclusive songs for Gypsy Life. He knows about skateboarding, he has roots in this culture. He discovered Dinosaur Jr through skate video. You know that habit: when you really like a song in a skate video and you start digging into it, searching who’s the artist behind it and stuff.
Yeah, yesterday typically, I was watching the new Illegal Civ video and the first comments on Youtube were: “what’s the music at 2’30?”. Music and skateboarding are still linked.
(Eric): I love when a video drives you to new underground stuff. The thing I dislike the most nowadays are the people who make some edits on shitty music. You have to take the opportunity to offer some alternative creations, you know. I really love this part of skateboarding.
Back in the days a skateboarding video made you discover tons of new songs / bands and more.
That’s so true. I remember back then I was always waiting for the credentials at the end of a video to know which CD I’d buy next, haha!
At the end, we really wanted to thank Pedro with something special. So we put these songs on a flexi disc.
How did you meet Pedro?
(Eric): through skateboarding videos in fact. We also have some friends in common so that was very natural.
And why a flexi disc?
We wanted to make something really special. It’s very rare to have a skateboarding video with exclusive music creation. We had this opportunity and flexi disc is something you can’t find anymore; really vintage stuff. It makes Pedro happy as well. On our side this was also a way to thank him.
Pedro also launched a vinyl at the same time. He had a great story to tell too. You always need stories nowadays. This one is really good.
We’ll maybe have some questions regarding how it works haha! Didn’t you invite another artist on the Gypsy Life tour?
Yeah, Chet Childress. He was part of a Vans tour and they were coming to Lyon, back in the days. I was taking care of them here and Chet and I had a really good time. I then contacted him for Cliché’s 15th anniversary, and he made us some boards. We organized a couple of exhibitions in Barcelona, London and Lyon. It worked out really well. So we asked him again for the Gypsy tour, and it was great.
(Eric): He’s actually the ideal guest. I mean he’s a true gypsy! He’s never at the same place, always on the road. And his work is dope so we were thinking about linking the whole Gypsy Life idea on Chet’s graphical universe. It made sense for us.
And the result is really sick, congrats guys!
When we think about it this Gypsy video is probably the most accomplished project we’ve done, you know. Graphics, music, the video itself… everything fall in place.
(Eric): Yeah, and it’s cool to tell a story through something else than the video itself. There’s the music, there’s the book etc.
Thank you both for your time! I really appreciate you shared all these stories with us.
Follow Cliché adventures online.