In our ‘anti-handshake’ article, we face the fact that not everyone necessarily loves what we are doing. Just to point out one really good story: As we happened to meet Jeremy Rogers – wearing an Alien Workshop T-shirt – at NYC’s Tompkins Square Park, it seemed like we had gone on a run of seeing famous people. Only minutes later, we crashed into Will Smith’s son, surrounded by a bunch of teens. Naturally, the son of Mr. Men in Black had his very own security guard, who soon got the feeling that Roland might be a little too close for comfort – and proceed to aim for his ass with his foot. Roland got away, though. Shortly after, we happened upon another crowd of fans gathered outside of a location that seemed to be a restaurant. “Wait, who is this again?” I was asking myself, as Lady Gaga slowly appeared. People were screaming, crying, taking photos and filming, while Conny, who shot Alex Olson’s article, was already far ahead of us. Lady Gaga stepped into her car, went off with two other security cars in tow, and I almost lost track of them.
But then I found Conny nonchalantly spotting the weird scenery. And then he spontaneously decided to skitch her car, without knowing it was hers! Through the eyes of a security guard for one of the biggest pop stars in the world, worrying about what was going to happen next sounds about right. But because of the bad street conditions, Conny had to let her go after a few seconds and the situation defused itself. Funny enough, Conny actually had no clue what was going on.
Ultimately, it’s a thin line between good and bad, and sometimes the ‘anti-handshake’- as we call it – is just as interesting.
Most people probably never heard Deo’s name before but the ones who do, know that he is somewhat of a character. When we were out in Essen working on our Europe Co. story, he stood out and sparked a friendship with our own #placemagpaule. Paul likes to talk and soon they started talking about life, with topics ranging from their day to day, near death experiences and future dreams these conversation provide us all with a look into Deo Katunga who is somewhat of an interesting cat.
You’re originally from Bulgaria. Please tell me about your journey that led you here.
I’ll try to make it short. Basically, I was completely over living in Bulgaria for a number of reasons. My initial plan was to try and win a bunch of the summer contests and dip out with the cash from them. That didn’t happen, plus I almost got killed on the way to one of ‘em. And at that point, I was like, “Damn I’m stuck for one more year.” And outta nowhere this dude that I kinda knew from the main spot we skate just came up to me and was like: “Yo, you wanna go to Germany?!” I told him I was hyped but didn’t have any cash. Then he said I could crash at his place till I figure some shit out and that he was going with a car so I could come free of charge. I was like, “Bro, for sure! When are we going?” And he said on Sunday. Keep in mind he tells me this on Thursday! So I pack all of my shit, ask my sponsors at the time if they could help out because I was going to Germany for a couple of months.
Who is supporting you over there?
Martin, the distributor of Polar in Bulgaria and owner of Amnesia skate shop, hooked me up with some boards. Mad love for that dude, the only shop owner in Bulgaria and anywhere that actually knows how to do shit correctly and treat his riders! Risto, the owner of Stinky Socks and distributor of Ashbury, gave me some cash, which is just one of the things that I can’t thank him enough for. Honestly, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be me as I am now. He and his brother are both my first-ever legit sponsors that over time became my brothers and showed me that it’s perfectly OK to be the weird self that I am.
So then you had enough money to leave for Germany?
Yes, at the end I got like €120-160 and three or four boards and packed up all my shit and just left. After some trouble and weird situations that I can’t go into because it’s gonna be too long, I ended up going from Berlin to my sister’s place in Düsseldorf where I stayed for a little over a year and then moved to Essen where I am now.
Currently, you are sharing an apartment with Niels in Essen and you already had a part in the last Europe Co. video. How did you guys meet?
Actually completely random. I was skating the park in D-dorf when Daniel [Ruski] was like: “Yo, let’s go meet up with the other dudes and skate street.” I didn’t know all of the others but was like: “Yeah, for sure.” And Niels was there with his cam – as a side note, that was the first time I ever saw a VX1000 live. And we skated and filmed and he was like: “Yo, would you hyped on filming a small part?” To which I was like: “Fuck yeah! Let’s get it!” And a month or two later he wrote me on Facebook, if I’d be hyped on going to Dortmund to film and I just fare-dodged it on the train there and, yeah, that’s how it started. But back then Europe [Co.] wasn’t Europe [Co.] yet. It was just an idea and a handful of motivated guys.
You have a really tough job that also almost killed you once. Explain your job and the story again.
So I work for “United Paid Slaves,” better known as UPS and I move heavy boxes for three to four hours every morning from 4 to 8AM. Gotta wake up at 2:45AM, get the train at 3:09AM, ride for one hour to Dusseldorf main station and then 30 minutes via bike to my job. From Monday to Friday. What happened was that one day the conveyor belt had stopped and I had to walk on this really thin thing to a high point and move some boxes that were jammed. So I fixed it and on the way down there are these hook type metal things and I slipped and fell with my stomach directly on one of those things and it went into me but I stopped it with my hands and pushed myself out and fell on the ground. The thing came out with a bit of skin and left me a sketchy scar but I’m all good now.
You own a diary that you take with you every day wherever you go. What does recording every little experience mean to you?
Yeah, I started it a while back to write down my steps towards getting where I’m going. The thing is, I don’t write down every little experience – just those that really influence and affect my view on different things and the world as a whole. Also, days and situations that make me feel something really strong – doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. And spontaneous mad good ideas that just have to be done.
You play the guitar. You sing along to any song stuck in your head all day. One could say you would literally die without headphones. You paint and write on your clothes, you even designed the grip-tape of the used board I gave you. Tell me about your relationship to art.
Well, ever since I can remember I’ve been drawing and creating all sorts of stuff. From a very young age, my parents thought me how to do a lot of things like sewing, drawing, playing music, carpentry, electrical engineering, and a bunch of other things. I was just always interested in making and learning as much stuff as possible and my parents saw that and helped me with any questions I had. Later it became an outlet for all the emotions I had in me and that’s also where the writing came from. And even later on, it turned into me really not enjoying being compared to anyone else. Everything I own will have something changed on it so it fits me perfectly.
What kind of modifications are we talking about?
Sometimes it’s something little like a patch or just some text written on it. Sometimes I’ll go as far as to completely change the color of different clothes and to whipstitch them. It’s also a way of inspiring other people and creating different thought processes in them. Make them go like: “Oh, shit that’s sick! I hadn’t thought about it.”
We talked a lot about anything and everything. I noticed you are a quite educated and receptive person. Describe your personal perspective on the world to me. What does living mean to you and what do you want from life?
Duuude, this is hard to answer without getting lost in thoughts. What I think of the world is that it’s a beautiful fucked up insanely huge place full of all sorts of people. Where you can always learn something, there’s always something new to experience, see or evolve in. Living and life as a whole is a completely different thing. It has a lot to do with time and the fact that it’s the only thing you can’t buy or get back in any way. Every second is precious and a person should use it to the fullest. Nowadays, people waste their lives taking the “safe” route going to school then to university studying something they don’t really like because there’s jobs in that field. They completely throw away their dreams – if they have any, to begin with – and then work to have money to live the next month to work to have money to live to the next month. And so on, and so on. Nine-to-five emotionless robotic bullshit. Hey, if that’s what you really enjoy doing and what makes you truly happy that’s cool. But, what if you’re 45 and get laid off from the only thing you know how to do because that’s what you’ve been doing your whole life? You’re stuck with no job having wasted half your life on shit you fucking hated doing and thinking, “I should have done this, I should have done that.”
I don’t want to be on my deathbed thinking I’ve wasted even a second of this amazing thing called life. And I sure as hell prefer completely failing in something I truly love doing than completely failing in something I hate. People should stop searching for what to study and what to work. They should begin searching for a dream and what they are really passionate about doing. That way they’ll be 100000% more happy and better at what they’re doing because it will be with complete passion and love for it.
When we talked about books, we noticed that we like kind of the same literature. What was the last book you found especially worth reading?
Some people would think I’m just joking, but the Kamasutra is a book that absolutely has to be read by anyone over 17. You would think it’s only like a sex guide or something but it really is not. Of course, there are things like that in it but it’s a really small part. If you want to understand a bit more about life and people’s behavior, I really recommend this one.
I really liked your thoughts about why you would want to become a pro skateboarder. Can you bring them together again?
Okay, there are about three points. First, I want to get to a point in skating where I go to a spot, look at it and think, “Damn this would look sick here!” And instead of just saying it and leaving actually being able to do it. Second, I want to be able to go to my parents one day and ask them: “What do you want? And regardless of the answer just say, “OK” and give it to them. They’ve given me everything without having anything and that’s something incredibly amazing that I can’t be thankful enough for. And I want to get there with skating because it’s legitimately the one thing I cannot live without and can’t have enough of. I skate absolutely every single day and always feel that I haven’t skated enough. I want to be able to skate as much as possible every day not do anything else like work and shit. And if skating can give me enough to live off, and I don’t mean millions, then I will be the happiest person ever. Third, when you get to a certain point in pro skateboarding popularity you have a huge amount of influence on others and how they do and see things. You are the one dictating fashion trends, what tricks are cool to do, and so on. Which gives you the opportunity and responsibility to change something in this world to have an impact on the minds of a lot of people, especially the younger ones. And it will be amazing when I get there. I will use being pro to inspire others to inspire themselves. I will be there to say and show others: “Yo, you can achieve whatever you want in life. You shouldn’t limit yourself in any way. I made it and I came from nowhere having nothing.” I just try to be a positive role model. I don’t drink, smoke or do whatever. I’m just extremely excited and thankful for every new day and every moment that I can skate, evolve, and live on this planet.
What are your plans for the near and far future?
First, finish filming for autobahn and get all that stuff done. There are also a lot of other things happening lately so fingers crossed you’ll see a bunch of really sick stuff soon enough. Hopefully, I will find some people as hyped as I am so we can create stuff that will get others hyped. As for the far future, I’m really interested in seeing how much time it takes me to get where I’m going and how much of a difference I will make in the end. And of course, skate my freakin’ ass off! I’m out bro, gotta go skate and can’t sit here anymore!
Since I wanted to write this article as authentic as possible, I decided to travel to the town of Essen in order to get to know every single one of the guys behind Europe Co. and also get an idea of their everyday lives. Essen is part of the so-called Ruhr Valley, a region situated in the west of Germany that consists of several larger cities located really close to one another; including towns such as Dortmund, Bochum, Duisburg and more. Thanks to their close proximity, you can easily switch between the cities in a minimal amount of time via train, which in turn unlocks an almost unlimited abundance of spots. The urban areas all have this rather modern architectural character with high-rise buildings, strict geometrical forms, and lots of concrete, steel, and glass. The cityscape tends to change at every street corner from snug to rough, from rich to poor, from vibrant green to gloomy gray. As I learned on my visit, this is exactly the environment the Europe Co. is rooted in.
The main man behind Europe Co. is Niels Reimann. He designs all the graphics for the clothes, films and edits all the clips, and takes care of the daily business. During my three-day visit, I stayed with him and Deo Katunga. The two share an apartment in Rüttenscheid, a really pleasant district of Essen with smaller houses, parks, cafes, and restaurants. What really struck me was the fact that Niels has been doing all the Europe Co. stuff and all the filming for only a mere one-and-a-half years at this point. Before that, he was producing beats and also released a cassette on a French label called Cindys Tapes. As we were sitting in Niels’ room watching some snippets of the upcoming Europe Co. video called autobahn – and Niels also showing me some of the music he made years ago – I understood that he has a certain intuition to know what fits well together and what doesn’t. This is actually reflected in all of his creative work.
What I really enjoyed about the Europe Co. guys is that they all seem to be one big family that I also quickly felt belonging to in a way. Most of the guys have been friends and skating together for many years already. It was also great to see how a motivated group of ten to 15 people would go out skating every day trying to get some clips. I personally have not filmed anything for almost three years now and suddenly got super hyped to try a guest line for their video as well. Unfortunately, I did not manage to roll away but still they brought back a feeling, which I thought I had lost some time ago – the joy of going out there and producing something. Which, of course, can be the most fun you can have with the right people around you. Speaking of people, almost everybody in the Europe gang goes by one or sometimes several nicknames, which made it really hard for me to learn all their names and sometimes almost impossible to follow their conversations. Luckily, Niels helped me out with this cheat sheet:
The G (Georg Anders), P Body (Philipp Bieronski), Pablo (André De Matos), Kicki (Yannick Skornik), Kaio (Kai Hillebrand), Pichl/Krishna/Skkinz (Matthias Pichl), Milky (Deo Katunga), The Coach (Timo Meiselbach), Bifi (Stefan Granitza), Kuyt (Florian Nass), Biber (Marius Paradies), Vman/Vitzke (Kevin Vietzke), Zyllek (Marcel Zylka), and Ching Chong (David Czichon).
Philipp Bieronski – Crooked
Don’t Fuck With The G!
On the day I arrived in Essen, Niels and Kuyt picked me up at the central station and we took the train to Dortmund – only half an hour in the same direction I came from – to meet with the rest of the gang. Nothing unusual really happened, until a character known as The G appeared at the spot. Without greeting anyone he went straight over to some guy and snapped his board, which resulted in a short verbal fight with heavy insults while everyone else was just watching the show. A few seconds later, The G introduced himself to me with a big friendly smile as if nothing of what just transpired had really happened. It turned out that the other guy had cheated him out of a serious amount of money, wrecked the door of his car, and did several other uncool things. Since then, The G snaps his board whenever he sees him at a spot. A little later, the other guy came back with his gang trying to raise a quarrel. But in the end, nothing happened because nobody really wants to have a fistfight with The G, I guess…
Deo Katunga – BS 360
Kevin Vietzke – Crooked
The First-Try Guy
The Europe Co. definitely, has a strong crew that truly never goes home unless somebody gets a serious trick. I was really surprised by how much footage they produced within the few days I stayed with them. But still, one guy stuck out the most during the time I have been with them: Deo Katunga. I don’t want to waste your time with all the empty phrases that could be doled out at this point. But just believe me, this kid definitely has something special going on. Whatever spot we went to, he was like: “Yo, first try!” And even if he never really got a trick first try, he still made almost every trick within the first five or six tries. So after he piqued my interest, I soon began to like this weirdo and we naturally started talking about his roots, life, and dreams. Which is, at least to my mind, reason enough to bring a little conversation I had with him into this article more on that later today.
A few weeks ago I was asked to come join a trip to Amsterdam. We met up with the guys from Pop Trading Co. to work on the article featured in the latest issue of Place. Whilst the weather was great, we went out skating with these guys every day. I took my camera with me and captured everything that went down in the interesting scenery of the Dutch capital.
My colleagues like to joke about me always claiming my Dutch identity. Just to give you an example: People often introduce us and say “These are the German guys from PLACE.” And I get an itchy feeling in my brain and say, “No man, I’m not German. I’m Dutch!” It goes both ways, though, as I learned when I went out to Amsterdam last January to do a web interview about Pop Trading Company. After the interview, I went out to kick it with Hugo Snelooper and Bastiaan a.k.a. “Bats” van Zadelhoff. It was one of those cold winter evenings, but we chose to buy some beers and walk the streets of the Dutch capital. Almost immediately both Hugo and Bats told me that they felt I had developed a little German accent! Of course, I felt some type of way about that, so I defended myself by saying that it was a northern accent. But that only made them laugh harder! As in many groups, it’s a sign of acceptance when you get dissed a little bit. Just a little poke in the ribs. Everybody gets it, or at least I hope so…
In the end, I never typed out that web interview and I like to think it wasn’t laziness but foresight that led me to make that Sartrean decision. Because if we had already ran it, this article would feel like a sequel – and the sequel is only very rarely better than its predecessor. So when we flew back from Amsterdam this second time, it felt like not doing something turned out to be the right decision. With that said, here’s a fresh look inside the Pop Trading Company.
Mats Edel – Ride on 50-50
The first time I met Mats he was sporting a MoMa PS1 Shirt, I figured he was wearing it as a fashion statement but he wasn’t. For most young people finding a form of self-expression is key and to see somebody take a serious interest in art at 18 years of age made me kind of jealous.
Alex Raeymakers – Fakie Varial Flip
Alex Raeymakers – Pole Bonk
The whole crew was fascinated with danny Sommerfeld’s climbing skills. We would all be skating a spot and somebody would say “Where is Danny?” and the next person would yell out “What the fuck is he doing up there on that balcony?”.
Hugo Snelooper – BS Heelflip
Hugo is one of the best but weirdest people to have a phone conversation with. Why? because he won’t stop making weird sounds when you are trying to hang up the phone “Killerrrr, instinct, G prrrrtpowpowpow.”
Joining the B(r)and
Everybody always says that working with friends can be a double-edged sword. You have to be prepared to both carry the weight in good and in bad times. Ask any Beatles fan and they will tell you that if John Lennon and Paul McCarthy never had that tension, the music would probably not have been all that great. In a way, the Pop guys are like a great band to me, from Peter Kolks and Ric van Rest, who started Pop and put on Willem and Bats – who in turn helped with scouting some new talent that in the end built the b(r)and, and made it into what it is now. Hanging out with the entire group, it felt like we were the opening act, traveling in the same tour bus, hanging out at the same bars, basically going with the flow whilst getting to know each other.
Now, if you hang out with this crew you might start believing that Pop is an acronym for People Owning Personality. Why?
Because everybody has a strong personality and when they get together, everything gets amplified. It brought out the best in all of us and every day was full of laughter mixed in with “real talk” type of conversations. Pop seems to be right on the money not only when in comes to the image of the b(r)and, but also when it comes to the product they put out. As Peter Kolks told us: “We would rather do it the way we want to and die gracefully, than to make something we are not proud of.” And they can indeed be proud. Not only did they get noticed outside of the Benelux borders – which can be a hard thing to do – but they have kept true to their roots by maintaining and pushing their Low Countries aesthetics, only periodically changing up when on tour. Always switching between treading carefully and making a new step, you can tell that a lot of skate nerd knowledge, street smarts, planning, and spontaneity are at work at Pop – together with the occasional beer that will be stretched out like a towel until the last drop has left the can.
A man with experience once told me, “Work together, don’t be afraid to fight each other but never forget to go to the bar together. Because if you don’t, you forget to forget and that will fuck things up in the end.” Luckily, that’s some advice that nobody at Pop seems to need right now because they do all of that organically. Maybe I’m making it sound too utopian. I mean, during our time with them they did make a lot of jokes about each other, tried to hit each other by shooting a football as hard as they could and they might even have posted some unflattering images of each other on the ‘gram. But that’s all just part of the vibe. In the end, the show goes on and they all know that Pop is not a one-man band.
Marc Haan – Willy Stall 270
When we where on our way to this bridge Mats said “This looks like a bridge by Calatrava.” and it does but it isn’t. it is what Bats would call a Hoenoe spot. A Hoenoe spot is a spot where Marc Haan will try tricks for hours. This Bank to curb was the perfect Hoenoe spot, because it allowed everyone to cool down in the lake after a long Hoenoe session.
Mats Edel – Bs 360
Whilst skating this spot Pop team rider Willem “Wallem” Dirks told me “When we were growing up skating doing a Backside 360 seemed impossible. Nobody I knew could do one, Looking back now it is kind of weird because in the 90’s it was as much of a standard trick as it is now. Our generation just lost it for a minute.
Bastiaan van Zadelhoff – Bs 360 No Comply
Because most of the crew had to work during the day, Bastiaan a.k.a. Bats a.k.a. Budgetbeuker often found himself in the role of the spotguide, a role he didn’t like. “Yo Bast where are we going?” – “I don’t know man, I am not from here!” I think secretly Bats was quite happy when he had to work, just because he didn’t have to guide us around.
Last week PLACE issue 58 landed in the mail. Tradition says when an issue is done it is time to host a party. This time it had to be Amsterdam. And that was our gut feeling talking. Trust your gut, people! So, when the time came, we linked up with the people from POP Trading Company & G’s to set the right atmosphere, it all turned out well and it was a great evening.
Special Thanks to Levi’s Skateboarding Collection.
This coming Friday,October 7th, we are proud to launch ‘The Handshake’ issue Nr.58
Together with Pop Trading Company and support from Levi’s we would like to invite you to celebrate the launch of our newest issue together with us at Gs Bar on the Ferdinand Bolstraat 158 in Amsterdam.
The Party will start at 10PM and end at around 3AM.
Music will be played by:
At the start of the evening, we will have a showing of Europe Co.’s New Full Length „Autobahn“. The video will premiere at 10pm.
For more information and updates go to our Facebook event by clicking the link bellow.
Back in the old days and still relevant today, the handshake is a synonym for an agreement, which is not official until both hands are parted. In this issue, we shake hands with people behind five brands from all over the world that are, in our eyes, totally different from each other and all pretty much rookies in the game. To transport the vibe of each brand we needed to get real insights. So were spending time with the founders, their cliques, and social environments, which, once again, makes the work we do and thus our product very personal.
Bastiaan van Zadelhoff – BS 360 No Comply – Photo: Danny Sommerfeld
Pop – Low Country Aesthetics
“Now, if you hang out with this crew you might start believing that Pop is an acronym for People Owning Personality. Why? Because everybody has a strong personality and when they get together, everything gets amplified. It brought out the best in all of us and everyday was full of laughter mixed with “real talk” type of conversations…”
Photo: Danny Sommerfeld
Hotel Blue – A Chat with Nick von Werssowetz
“Sometimes, a few missed connections can still lead where you need to be. The story behind this interview started when I got a text from a friend who was out in Montreal at the time. He sent me a photo of him together with Ayo (Alex O’Donahoel), who unfortunately happened to leave Montreal right before we got there. But as it turned out, Ayo sent a DM letting me know he would be in NYC for the next few days. So we connected when we got to the Big Apple…”
Photo: Conny Mirbach
Alex Olson – Leave a Message
“That is what I heard when I tried to call (917) 692-2706, which we all know is the full phone number behind Alex Olson’s enigmatic board brand. I didn’t leave a message but I wanted to. Just to see if anybody would listen to what I had to say and maybe “they” would even call back…”
Photo: Laura Kaczmarek
Europe Co. – A Ruhr Valley Continent
“The urban areas all have this rather modern architectural character with high-rise buildings, strict geometrical forms, and lots of concrete, steel, and glass. The cityscape tends to change at every street corner from snug to rough, from rich to poor, from vibrant green to gloomy grey. As I learned on my visit, this is exactly the environment the Europe Co. is rooted in.”
Remy Taveira – Fs Wallride – Photo: Maxime Verret
Öctagon – Die Maschine
Following the Öctagon members on a visual adventure through the greatest machinery of humankind, the city.
The brand new PLACE issue 58 “The Handshake” will be available through skateshops, selected retailers and newsstands – some of the shops got the issue already, just ask!