words: Brian Peech
photos: Anthony Acosta
After a hectic year of juggling two of the strongest video parts of his career, Daewon Song has finally found room to breathe. We caught up with him during a taxing video premire tour. In typical Daewon form—humble, down-to-earth and animated—he shares tales of escaping gang life, raising a son and loosing bets to Steve Rocco at the World Park. All while helplessly scarfing back a half-dozen French cruellers.
How do you feel after filming two of what many consider your strongest parts in the same year?
Just worked. I was skating every day from morning till night. We started the DVS project first. I filmed for about three months for that. Then Round 3 came about, so I had to stop and film for that.
How long does it take to film a part?
It depends. I think anybody should be able to film a part within six to eight months. I think that's way enough time, depending on injuries.
How did you decide what footage went where?
I filmed really technical stuff for Round 3 because that's what I think that audience looks for. I wanted to make two really different parts 'cause who wants to see two parts that are pretty much alike? I tried to change it up for Skate More. I basically tried to make them like Taco Bell and Burger King. You get a little bit of the same thing. I guess I should say Del Taco and Burger King 'cause you can still get burgers at Del Taco. You know what I mean? There are still burgers in my part in Skate More that are similar to Round 3, but we changed up the menu a little.
What was it like filming a part outside the Rodney vs. Daewon thing?
It was actually really fun; it gave me more freedom. I could do other things. With the Round 3, Round 2 and Round 1 videos, I was so caught up with doing the most technical tricks 'cause Rodney's shit is so crazy. But with Skate More, I was able to have a lot more fun. More tranny and some obscure spots.
How has filming changed for you since the Love Child days?
In the Love Child days, we filmed everything we did just for fun. That was in '91. Then in '93, with New World Order, things got more serious. More skaters started coming up, and if you were filming something and someone already did it, you'd have to come up with something better. From that point on, filming got a lot harder. What kids expect nowadays is so crazy, man. It's pretty intimidating at these premires. You'd be surprised by what they like and what they don't like. Sometimes a trick you worked on for two days gets no response at all, and then something you just did for fun, like a one-footed grind or something, they're like, "Yeaaah!" I think it's the fact they can relate, like, "I'm gonna go do that right now." And I think that's what skateboarding needs: to let kids know you don't have to do shit you can't do. Go out there and do stuff you know how to do. Have fun.
How has becoming a father changed things for you?
It's the best thing. It's given me more motivation than ever to do these video parts. If I didn't have my kid and my wife, I don't think Round 3 would've happened, and Skate More would've been a partial part. It's crazy. He [son's name] brings a different perspective on the world. Having a kid is a lot of work, though. Holy shit! I'd be filming all day and get home sometimes at 12 or 1 in the morning, and he'd just get up—boom!—and wouldn't go to bed until 6 in the morning. This was seriously like every other day. I was just exhausted.
You and your son look identical. Is your hair naturally curly or do you style his hair?
Ha! People think we look alike, but when you see my wife—oh my God!—they're twins. His hair is way curlier than mine. It's down to his waist, but since it's so damn curly, it's all frizzled up to his neck. My hair is naturally curly. I've been asked that question so many times. The day you see me perm my hair, I want you to slit my wrists. Daewon Song doesn't do that.
Do you think you'll push him to skate?
I might try to duct tape him to a board and push him around every once in a while, but I'm not gonna push anything on him. But if he tries to get into something weird, I'm gonna have to pull him away.
Was it acceptable to skate in your neighborhood when you were growing up?
Around my neighborhood, skating was actually big for a time, like in the early '90s. Then it started to die out. There was a lot of gang banging going on in my old neighborhood in Gardena. I was seriously the only skateboarder left at my school. I just hung in there.
I heard a lot of your friends got mixed up in gangs.
Yeah, a lot of 'em got mixed up in that stuff. A lot of guys quit skating, one got killed, another guy was tagging on a freeway and got killed. I watched all these friends of mine getting into the stupidest things. And I was like, dude, I just need to stick with this skateboard thing. But I didn't stick with it as a career; I just thought it was something to do after school, y'know? Skateboarding's changed so much now. It's like kids skate just to get sponsored. Back then we skated the curb at Rally's burgers just for something to do.
How did your parents feel about your skating
You know Asian parents, man; they're gnarly. They want you to become some lead pianist in an orchestra or, like every parent, they want you to become a doctor. I was really into art when I was a young kid, and I won a lot of awards, so my parents thought that's what I'd pursue. Then I got picked up in skateboarding and started getting free stuff. They were tripping, like, "Where are you getting all this free stuff?" They thought I was stealing money from them. I got caught stealing money from them when I was a younger kid, to buy like the whole Muscles collection. Those things and the Garbage Pail Kids. They make you steal, man. Those things are evil. Thank God for those things, though. They put me in a little reality check, like, stealing's not a good idea. My parents were separated during that time, so it was a little hard for them to communicate. It gave me a little bit more freedom to go for it.
What's a typical Daewon day, if you're not skating?
I'm always skating, man. I get up, kick back, then hang out with my son for a little bit, take him to the backyard, go up the hill for a little walk, see if that'll tire him out, give him some breakfast. Then I'll drive about an hour to San Pedro, Chanel Street Project, to skate. I always like to take coffee and doughnut breaks. I'm a huge doughnut fan. I don't know what it is, but when I see doughnut shops, I get the biggest smile on my face. I used to be into Krispy Kremes, but if I eat two of those things, I feel like I'm gonna throw up. They're so sweet. I like those French cruellers. They only got a little icing, so you don't OD on sugar. You can take down like three of those things. No more Krispy Kreme.
You have a certain way of falling. Where did that come from?
I think it came from when I was younger, all the karate classes, and me thinking I was some sort of superhero when I used to put a cape on and jump out of trees. We used to play Tron and throw a disk made of Reynolds Wrap at each other.
Was there a time when you almost gave up on skateboarding?
Yeah. In 1994, after New World Order came out, I got highly involved with cars and a girl. You know how that stuff is. I'd just broken my ankle in '93 and thought I was over. I was just waiting to get that call. That's when all the guys left and went to go do Girl. And I was like, "Holy shit, what's going on?" I lost touch with a lot of people, and then I called Rodney and he wasn't doing too good. It was a wake-up call. At that moment I felt like I was a pathetic piece of trash. They did all this for me and I was going to give it up. It was almost as though Rodney brought me into this and had supported me, and now it was my turn to support him. I just woke up and started skating again and tried to make stuff happen again. Then Rodney and me started doing our projects, and everything from that point on has been working out great.
When skateboarding took a dip in the '90s, did you see it coming?
Yeah, I seen it coming. People just weren't into it anymore. It just got so big, and then everyone just stopped doing it. It started to fall apart. Amazing companies were falling off. Companies were kicking people off. But for me, I was so young then and really didn't understand too much of it, y'know? Rodney would always be like, "Skating's not so good right now, but it'll change." I was like, "Cool, where are we gonna go skate?" You just gotta hang in there. Times can get tough, but hang in there and have faith.
What was a really good day from back at the World Park?
The best day was when Steve Rocco came down and skated with me. Me and him made so many bets that day. He'd be like, "Daewon, I'll give you a hundred bucks if you double flip the pyramid." And I did it. He was like, "How can I win it back?" So I go, "Steve, half-Cab into the bank." And—boom!—he half-Cabbed into the bank. I was trying to tell him I was just a little kid who made stupid decisions and that he should just let me keep the hundred bucks. After that bet, he had the money balled up in his hand and said, "Daewon, pick a hand. If you pick the wrong one, Daniel [Castillo] gets the hundred." I picked the wrong one and Daniel got the hundred. I just kept telling Daniel that half off it should be mine because that bet wouldn't have existed under any other circumstances. It had nothing to do with Daniel. But Daniel kept it. That is one of the days I'll always remember at the World Park. Just Rocco being there, and the legend he is, and being able to skate with this guy. It just gave me a good feeling. But, dude, I've won a lot of hundred bucks from him.
Is it a lot harder to get recognized as a skater without throwing yourself down rails?
I don't think I've ever had rail footage in a video part. Maybe a flatbar, or homemade rails, but those don't count. I think it's easier to stand out if you don't skate rails nowadays. I've never felt pressure to skate one. If I did skate rails, what could I do that some young kid already do? I'm not gonna force myself to go into that. If I did, I wouldn't be true to myself. I give much respect to everybody who does skate rails, though. I just don't do it myself. Who knows, in the future I might change it up. You know there's Del Taco and Burger King. I might try to do Wendy's and bring out a little rail part, who knows. Keep the Wendy's option open for me.