Friday, December 15, 2006

Greg Walsh Interview

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If you don't know who Greg Walsh is, you will after reading part one of this interview. Part two is coming soon, hit me in the comments with any questions you might have for him.

1) What's your name, how old are you and where were you born?

Greg Walsh, I’m 31, and I was born in Syracuse, NY

2) What came first, BMX or hardcore? How did you get into both?

BMX came first. I started riding at 11 after a kid in our neighborhood showed me how to wheelie and jump curbs on my Ross leisure bike. I saved up money and begged my parents and later that year got a BMX.

As for music, I went to a couple weird metal shows with this kid Rory and his older sister in 8th grade. At a Testament show I got a flyer for an Overkill show that DRI also played. I took a bus to Rochester to see it, and that was that… I loved DRI, and within a few months I had seen Sick of it All, Excel, Slapshot, Judge, Danzig, etc. mostly at this club called Backstreets. I made a friend in 9th grade named Jay Zeller who was into hardcore, and after I had a partner in crime we took the bus to Rochester to buy records and go to shows constantly. I guess for “scene points” I can say that I started going to “shows” in 1989.

3) Was Primo your first job in BMX? How did that come about?

Nope. I got recruited to work at Primo after working at Kink in Rochester for a few years. Before that, I worked in a skateshop in Rochester and put a BMX area in there. It didn’t do very well because there weren’t too many riders, but it created a cool little scene. When Zack decided to bring Kink back to Rochester, I started working there. I cold-called 3,000 shops one winter, and that was at a time when normal shops didn’t give a shit about BMX, so explaining to them why they needed durable (and expensive…) aftermarket parts from a company they had never heard of was tough.
I met Brian Castillo on Road Fools 2, we got to be friends, and when a position opened up at Primo/ Tip, he asked me to come out. I went out to visit, took the job, and started working there on January 10th of 1999.

4) What happened leading up to you being fired from Primo? You were there for a long time and I think in a lot of people's eyes, solidified it as a strong brand.

I’ll give you the slightly abridged version so no vert riding Canadians get their feelings hurt… Colvin, the uninterested, money-laundering schiester that owns Tip and Primo, hired, as he usually did, a completely inept employee for the important job of general manager. The guys name was Henry Chen, and he was literally the worst person that I’ve EVER dealt with, ever, and I’ve had some fucked up jobs and dealt with some fucked up people. The guy had total small man’s syndrome, and tried to play that “employees best friend” shit, when really he was just a lackey that delivered the messages Colvin was too much of a pussy to deliver himself. The guy started mistreating our vendors at Tip, who were my friends, mistreating our staff, and screwing with everything from our production, to our advertising, etc.

He was making our already hard job WAY harder, and so I treated him like the useless dick that he was. I would shush him, and wave him out of my office, mention in meetings that he was unqualified for his job, and so on. If authority has respect for me, I have respect for them, but he was a detriment to the company, compromising relationships I had worked for years to build, and frankly, was only there because he fit the, uh, “special qualifications” that Colvin had for his office/ management staff - ALL of those things made it impossible for me to respect him. Around that same time, one of our vendors at Tip was playing bullshit strong-arm games, being ridiculously demanding, underperforming sales-wise, etc. and we were going to drop them from the distribution. The owner of the brand freaked out when he didn’t get his way, and sent several maligning emails about me to Colvin and Henry (I still have them…) and also tattle-taled on me for a bunch of stuff that was irrelevant to the company and my job there, but provided the perfect excuse, along with the untruths in the emails, for them to fire me. So that’s what they did.

5) Taj and Joe showed a lot of loyalty to you by dropping Primo as a sponsor as soon as you were fired. Did you expect them to make that decision?

I worked really closely with all the brands at Tip, and most of the team guys, but Taj and Joe were the one’s that I’d been through the most with. When we brought T1 to Tip, it took a lot of work, and we got to be really close during that time. I was honored that they left the team when I left the company, but what was a much bigger deal was that they immediately pulled T1 out of Tip Distribution. THAT was a step of faith. I had mixed feelings, because I didn’t want them or their brand to suffer by leaving, but at the same time, I was grateful that they stuck up for me.

6) In one of the issues of 411 I remember you made some comments about Snafu ordering all their parts from Taiwan, which led to McGoo basically calling you out on the Snafu site ( correct me if I’m messing this story up ). Did you regret making those comments ever?

No. Just to be clear- I was in no way making a statement about Taiwan, it was about Harold and “his” brand. Primo and Coalition both order most of their products from Taiwan, and the people we work with over there are great.

Harold used his high I.Q. to write some shit on the Snafu site that my friend and our engineer Joe responded to and I never even read, and then he proceeded to mock me in several ads. His “piece de resistance” was a fake interview with Sean McKinney that he wrote with his ego maniac sidekick Chris Moeller. They put it in an S&M catalog a few years ago. It made fun of the work I did at Primo, our contests, the fact that I believed in that “straightedge hardcore bullshit”, talked about how little my dick is, and so on. Brilliant stuff.

It was no surprise coming from little Harold, but fuck, I’d been an S&M customer literally since they started, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t suck to have a childhood idol malign me in print. I talked to Chris about it, and being the spineless pussy that he is, he denied any involvement in front of his entire staff, even though there was information to the contrary.

7)If you saw McGoo right now, how high would the tension level be?

To say there would be tension would imply that I feel in some way that Harold could physically or mentally harm me, which he can’t. Even though I’m quite used to criticism, the stuff he wrote sucked, but all it did was prove what I initially thought about him.

Of course I’ve seen him here and there, and he scurries away just as I’d expect of someone that useless and pitiful. The only reason him or Moeller are still waking up warm is that I had the discretion to call off the dogs when the not-so-nice people that know and respect me read the shit they wrote. They should be sending me thank you cards and chocolates.

8) What made you want to start Coalition? You've been around for a few years now, do you feel like you've accomplished what you wanted to so far?

Well, I feel that when Primo was running on all cylinders that it was really, really good. Even at its’ best, there were things that, logistically, we could never get done right. The company was too big to pay attention to certain things, and those things are what really give a brand its identity. I wanted to do Coalition because I knew we could offer something image-wise and visually that wasn’t out there already. There were also a bunch of guys that had some great product ideas and concepts that would never have come to me at Primo. As far as what I’ve wanted to accomplish so far, it’s a mixed bag. We have so many great international distributors, more than I ever expected, but we’ve also had some product setbacks that I would certainly not have chosen. Overall, I’m happy with where we are, and know that we’ll grow a lot in the next year or so.

9) I've heard kids say online that they expected Coalition to maybe be out there a little bit more. I guess people think you've been somewhat quiet, do you think that's accurate and if so has it been intentional?

I agree with that statement. We definitely have not blown ourselves out coverage-wise. That is somewhat intentional. We are a privately owned company, and we have financial limitations that most “larger” parts companies don’t have, so I didn’t want to blow our wad on advertising and promotions, and not have the capital to keep the parts in stock. If we’re not selling parts, we can’t do anything, so that has to be top priority for the first few years of the company.
Once we’re on steadier ground, then you’ll start to see us in all the conventional channels. We’re not going anywhere, and I am a believer in “slow and steady wins the race.”

10) Has the Coalition team changed at all since you first started? I remember it being noticeably huge when it was first announced.

It’s changed a little bit. The fact that it was so big was due to three things: there were guys who were displaced at Primo/Tip that I wanted on the team, there were other guys I was stoked on and wanted to work with, and there were the guys that are my friends and that I wanted on the team because they rule.

We’ve added a few guys, and a few guys have changed direction but are still good friends.

11) What is your involvement with hardcore like these days? Do you still go to a lot of shows? What bands keep you excited about it...

I go in spurts of “involvement”, I guess. One way we’re constantly involved is that we sponsor bands and put on shows through Hell on Earth. Hell on Earth is a clothing line we do, and we give stuff to a handful of really great bands- Terror, Ringworm, Achilles, Lamb of God, Psyopus, The Red Death, Walls of Jericho. We are still selling Hell on Earth through fairly limited sales channels, so a lot of the kids that see the bands wearing the gear probably can’t find it, but we’re working on that all the time. My brother has put on several shows this year under the Hell on Earth moniker, and I have been booking shows under it since 1995.

I go to shows when I feel like I can handle the sociology experiment that the scene is now. I don’t want to sound like one of those “back in the day…” guys, but it is sometimes really hard to take all the fucking petty bullshit these kids are worrying about. All the complaining at the top of their lungs just doesn’t sound that sincere when they’re either dolled up in some nerdy outfit, or acting like a fucking prick to everyone, or preaching about something on stage that there is NO WAY a 21 yr old can have a grasp on…

Music-wise, I like the angry stuff- the world is not a happy place, and the music I listen to reflects that. I’m up and down the spectrum when it comes to hardcore. As long as it’s got passion and emotion behind it, I can appreciate it. Bands can’t fake that stuff, so I can tell pretty much right away if I have any interest at all. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a snob.
For example, I really like Tragedy, and the next record I listen to might be Dying Breed from Troy, NY. Those aren’t bands that share many fans, but when you break it all down, they’re both angry at society and distraught and have been fucked over and they channel it into some brutal music. They might not sit down and have a beer together in the real world, but in MY world, they do.

I love Nick Cave; I think he’s a fucking genius. Danzig up to the 4th record, and Samhain too. Nobody can ever replicate what those guys do.

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