Steve Olson a.k.a. Crazy Monk
Words: Seb Carayol
Old Ad Scans: http://chromeballincident.blogspot.com/
Steve Olson is back! Well, at least his rhyme-spitting alter ego, Crazy Monk. Tracking down the voluntarly gone AWOL, internet-snubbing Shorty’s rubber boy took a minute. My only lead? The rumor that he’s currently working at a skateshop in his native State of Washington. But after some awkward, Yellow Pages-enhanced random phone calls to a bunch of shops, one bright day, I fulfilled the dream: Crazy Monk picked up the phone at All-A-Board, in Puyallup. To announce a freshly pressed hip hop album, and to reminisce about times when he was just “the other Steve Olson”.
How does it feel to have your first album out?
Oh, dude. It’s been a life-long dream. I mean, I’ve had tracks on other people’s projects, with New Cocoon, Dr Merkaba, and Legion of the Shadows in 2005, which we burned copies of and sold in San Diego, but we never really released it. The one I just put out under the name Crazy Monk is called 27th Letter of the Alphabet. It’s dope. Some hardcore, grimy, spiritually, politically conscious hip hop.
How did you get that nickname?
I just gave it to myself. Cause since I started rhyming in the mid-90s, I was already into spirituality, so I thought monk would be cool. And then, I’m individualistic and free thinking and I don’t follow any sectarian religion, so if I was a monk I wouldn’t let other people control my mind with dogma and sectarian views. I’d be the monk they’d kick out of the temple cause I’m too crazy.
I take it you were raised in spirituality?
I definitely learned it from my father in an indirect way, but I didn’t really consciously try to copy my father, cause usually people try to rebel against what their parents are doing, so.
When I was a kid, my dad used to build pyramids in our house, he had a big pyramid in his bedroom that he’d sleep in. He was into all just different types of spirituality of the world, took us to different types of temples and churches, so I was exposed to it at a young age.
Then, when I moved to California when I was 17, I lived right accross this hindu temple for almost 10 years, and I used to go there and hang out with the hindus and learn about yoga and vegetariaism and chanting mantras. I’d practice yoga, chi-gong. I haven’t eaten meat for 11 years.
Before that, how did you pick up skateboardin in Tacoma WA?
There actually was in Tacoma, and I didn’t know it, a gnarly underground street skating history. Super gnarly late ‘80s street skaters, people that no one would know about but that I found out about, like Mike Shelma (RIP), Jim Wright, this other dude George. They would ollie over fire hydrants, do handrails. I met them when I just started, they were 16 or 17 and I was 12, they’d let me hang out with them. But what got me into skating was the movie Thrashin’, dude, I swear to God, I’m not even kidding. I just skated 17 years straight after that. Then me and my friend got that generic skateboard, we fixed it up, painted it up and we shared it. But he was older so he said, “It’s our board but I’m older, so I’ll keep it at my house.”
Did you have a skateshop in town?
Yeah, man. Eventually for Christmas I got my first board at Pacific Bike and Ski, this friggin’ bike shop that sold skateboards. I got a Jeff Grosso with the big old devil on the bottom of it, and Trackers, SlimeBalls.
Did you have any board sponsors before Foundation?
I almost got sponsored by New Deal. In 1992, they came to Tacoma and told me they wanted to put me on their B-team, not on their real team. I was hyped but pretty much the same day I talked to New Deal on the phone, Tod Swank called me at my house cause I had sent a video to Foundation. I was like, yo, forget Neaw Deal.
My dad would rent this state-of-the-art VHS video camera on weekends ‘cause I was, like, “Yo, dad, I think I can get sponsored, man, film me!” So he rented one for maybe five times and we got hella footage. I edited the video on two VCRs at my house somehow, and I figured out how to put music in my video part -Dinosaur Jr. [hums lyrics to Whatever’s Cool With Me -Seb’s note.]
Did Foundation ask you to move to California?
No. Basically… Yeah, actually, they kinda did. They sent me and Josh Beagle to Spain right after I got sponsored. I had never been on a plane before, not once. They were smoking on the plane the whole time, you could smoke on airplanes, 20-hour flight to Spain. And we skated Barcelona dude, no one used to go to Barcelona back then, but me and Josh Beagle were two of the first people from the US to go to Barcelona. We skated the train station with Enrique Lorenzo when he was really little, and really good, he was doing switch varial heelflips. First person I ever saw do that. After being out there for a week I got kinda tripped out. I was only 16 and I kinda wanted to go home. I only thought that way for a couple minutes and the we just skated, man, the whole time. They took us to many different cities. It was some crazy distributor in Spain, we didn’t even have to do demos or anything. Just skating the whole time.
When did you find out about the other Steve Olson?
I saw a picture of him right when I first started skateboarding. He was doing like a laybackslide or a nose wheelie or something, on a bank, in an old Transworld. I always wanted to meet him. And I don’t do drugs anymore, I used to smoke a lot of weed, and I haven’t even smoked weed for four years or drunk any alcohol. Really, all I used to do then was smoke hella weed, everyone knows. So anyway, I had never got to meet the other Steve Olson, and I always wanted to, cause the more I learned about skateboarding history, the more I learned who this guy was.
Also, just a quick side note, I have the same name as a previous professional skater, Steve Olson, I also have the same birthday as Tony Hawk, May 12th. that doesn’t matter but i always thought that that was cool, those few things…
So, I go to the Trade Show one year and I ate hella mushrooms. And I’m telling people now to not do drugs, you don’t need to, be on a natural high. I’m not condoning drug use! But I took hella mushrooms and I went to the trade show, and the only time I ever met the other Steve Olson, I was tripping really, really hard. I saw this dude, and he looked like a crazy rock star from the ’80s or something, I was like, daaamn. He came up to me and knew who I was. I was tripping so hard man, just looking at this dude. I don’t think he knew but I’m sure my eyes were all bugged out or something. He gave me the seal of approval. He said, “I like you, man, you’re worthy to carry on the name.” I was like hyped. He was like, “You know that other dude, Tyrone Olson, he’s a brother? I like Tyrone Olson too. Both you guys are worthy of the name.
That was during the Shorty’s years, right? How did that come about?
I just met Muska pretty much from living in San Diego, before he even had a solid sponsor. We became good friends and I had already been pro for some years before he went pro. Then he started Shorty’s [with Tony Buyalos]. See, it’s always been like this in life, I don’t know why, there’s just people that believe in me in all the major things that have happened in my life. Muska was one of those people that believed in me. Foundation wasn’t really going good for me, and Muska came and wanted me to be pro for Shorty’s. I didn’t even feel I deserved it… Actually at the time, I was trying to get Muska on Foundation, I thought he was one of the best skaters in the world before he had really gone pro. I’m not gonna name names, but some people didn’t want to have Muska on Foundation. Next thing you know, he became pretty much the best skater in the world for a few years.
On a side note, I’ve always wondered about the all-yellow jump suit.
I got it at the swap meet or one of these places in the ghetto in east San Diego, where you can buy sweat suits for really cheap. Kinda like gangster clothing stores. But I was down, man, I was down for the sweat suits. I mean, people should wear whatever they wanna wear, it can be a form of self-expression, so if you let society control you, society can cut off your ability to have your own authority to express yourself. If you can design your life in a way to where you keep your freedom to express yourself how you want to, it makes you stronger, and more healthy.
Ever broken your glasses skating?
No. I don’t know why, but 99% of time, they always magically stayed on my face somehow. One time they broke, we were at the Tampa Skatepark doing a demo, they just broke in half randomly cause they were too old. I super-glued them and taped them back together.
This reminds me, he was always pretty cool to me. And I saw him randomly right when I quit all my sponsors in 2005, when I decided to quit all my sponsors and go underground. I just didn’t want to be a pro skater anymore. I was more into making music, and I just like wanted to make music and I would get paid to skate but I’d spend all my time making music.
There was a lot of other stuff going on in my life but right when I quit, I was walking down the street in San Diego and I saw jak Phelps in the street, and he’s the last person I wanted to see as I was trying to leave the skate industry quietly. I told him I wasn’t a pro skater anymore. He said, “That’s good, you don’t need sponsors, now you can just skate for the love of it.”
Now did you move back to WA right away?
No, I came back in 2007. I just had to get out of San Diego. There were just some people in San Diego that I wasn’t down with anymore and I’d see them all the time around town. San Diego is small. Also I was down there for 14 years, and missed falily and friends from down there in WA. I came up here to do this album with my friend which we ended up not ever doing, and stayed. I met a lot of other MCs and people that make beats, like-minded individuals. To me MCing is lot like skating, it’s an art form -created by the youth without adult supervision.
Some people are trying to be “the skater that raps…” You didn’t do that.
I went from being a professionbal athlete to giving up on that life. I chose to lose everything I had. And to live being broke all the time for the last seven years, sometimes not having money to eat. But I’ve been MCing the whole time and freestyling. What I realized is that when you have too much money and you’re too successful, you don’t have to struggle, for one you have less incentive to build your skills in whatever your art form is, and it also closes your mind. People that have too much think, ‘I have all this, I must be important, I must know everything already.” Their mind is closed. When you don’t have anything, you’re starving to live and your mind is open to building with anybody that come to you, because you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Spiritually, losing it all helped me realize that the things that make you happy in life are inside of you. That’s the true wealth. Even if you’re a frigging broke-ass fool, that true self is still inside of you. You can have money, of course. But you are are detached from it, then it’s all good.
It’s not the most common message you hear in skateboarding these days.
Believe me, if you’d let me, I’d break it down scientifically in a way that the magazine would never print! Maybe they do want to print some real underground, subversive, different view of the knowledge of life.
That sounds like a lot of pages… Didn’t you make blogs about it at some point?
I haven’t even used a computer at all. I have friend who does my facebook and my soundcloud.
Don’t you volunteer at a skateshop these days?
I do! At my friend Seth Ivers’ All-A-Board shop in Puyallup. We’re about to open an indoor skatepark that will have skate classes, art classes, a music studio. The city of Tacoma is getting behind it cause we’re trying to serve the community.
To buy Crazy Monk’s album in a digital fashion, go to : www.crazymonk.bandcamp.com