Kevin Bækkel's "Gangreen" Interview

kevinbaekkel headerBlack metal is typically anti-Christian, but Bækkel still gives praise to the Madonna     Photo: Ponsero

When I first met Kevin he was 14 years old, visiting the US from Norway by himself and communicated by barking like a dog—no words, just barks, yips and howls. Introducing him to the homies helped and he learned English quick, taking those animal instincts to the streets of LA and then all over the world. It's been crazy watching him go from grom to full-blown viking. These new video parts he’s got are insane. Crazier than barking like a dog? Maybe. The Hammer from Hamar is HEAVY! Get ready to get bit. ––Jared Cleland

Don't miss Kevin close the curtains on Creature's brutal new vid

What are you doing right now, Kevin?
Just chilling in Oslo right now, healing up from injury, trying to get back on the board. I’ve got a little room with some homies here. I’m just living with a bunch of skaters. It’s pretty chill.

How far away is it from your hometown of Hamar?
It’s an hour and 20 minutes by driving, so not too far.

What was it like when you were growing up there skating?
It was pretty cool. There was a pretty big skate scene so that’s what got me into it—going down and seeing all the people at the new skatepark that had just been built. And all those dudes are my homies to this day. That’s who I’m living with now, all the older homies from that skatepark.

KEVIN BAEKKEL ollie into the double bank by GERARD RIERA DZOllie in and get ready to haul ass. How do you say GX1000 in Norwegian?     Photo: Riera

So the older homies skating your local outdoor park was what sparked it for you?
Yeah, for sure. Just seeing older dudes skating and seeing how they were just hanging out, it looked like the best time ever.

And back then there weren’t that many big skaters coming out of Norway, huh?
Nah, not too many. There was Henning Braaten and Christian Brox.

Do any of those guys stick out to you as far as setting a tone for your skating?
Yeah, definitely Christian Brox. There’s a lot of inspiration from him. Every time you see him drop in on something you just gotta fuckin’ sit back and enjoy the show. It’s pretty brutal how he skates. I definitely take a lot of that into my skating. There’s a lot of rawness.

What would you do in the wintertime?
In the winter we’d just try to find places. Before we had an indoor park we’d just try to find underground spots. We'd just put a bunch of big jackets on and long underwear and end up skating in negative 30-40 degrees Celsius.

Felix Adler Kevin Baekkel Bs Feeble DZLocked in and held tight, there’s nothin’ feeble about this shit     Photo: Adler

What was up with that little indoor park that you had? When did that open up?
I think that opened up when I was 13 or 14. My parents and some other homies’ parents got together and opened it privately and made it work somehow. And they kept it open for a long time and it was right next to my house so it was like the best thing ever.

Did a lot of the skaters that you grew up with skate there, too, or had they already moved to Oslo?
Some of them were still there but most of them moved away before we even got the park because we didn’t have an indoor spot. And the scene in Oslo’s bigger. Most of them moved when I was about 13, so I was pretty much there alone.

What about in school? Did anyone hassle you for being a skater back then, or did you have some homies?
No, I had some skater homies but there were definitely older soccer dudes and hockey dudes who were always trying to give us shit.

kevinbaekkel pullquote They were planning on kidnapping me and putting me in the forest 1
Do you have any crazy stories about kids fucking with you? I heard a story about some kids messing with you and then leaving you in the snow, like they jacked you.
Nah, that was just a big threat. There was this tradition when people graduated. They were planning on kidnapping me and putting me in the forest but we figured out what they were trying to do and stopped it before it happened. There were a lot of fuckers in my town trying to fuck with me.

These dudes were not skaters, huh?
They were soccer players.

And you guys weren’t feeling their fuckin’ tradition.
Nah, fuck those dudes. And after they couldn’t do that shit they broke into our indoor park and broke all the Creature boards because they thought they were mine.

Oh my God, that’s fucked up. They had to get you one way or another, huh?

That was around the time you started coming out to the US. What was it like when you flew here for the first time and came to Phoenix, AZ?
That was a pretty crazy experience. There was a skate contest called Wild in the Parks, and I skated one of those in Norway and that qualified me into the European finals thing. It was a 14-and-under contest. I did good in the European one so they sent me out to the States to skate the one in Phoenix. It was less than a week apart and they’re like, Alright, if you want to go to the States we got you right now, next weekend, and I’m like, What the fuck?

KEVIN BAEKKEL BS NOSESLIDE FINAL DZOnly Muska’s jambox on the stairs could make this noseslide any sicker     Photo: Ponsero

That’s crazy. So what, you just flew solo all the way to Phoenix?
Yeah, pretty much. There were some of the Volcom dudes there but I was pretty much solo. They put me in a room with a dude that didn’t speak English at all. So I couldn’t talk to him. We were doing Google Translate on the computer down in the lobby to talk to each other.

But you couldn’t really speak English either. The first time I met you, you were like a dog who would just bark and we were like, Damn, this homie is fuckin’ sick.
I was pretty fried on my English. I couldn’t really talk much, just a little bit. But yeah, I’d just walk around the hotel and fuck with everybody, just barking to see people’s reactions.

I think we met you in the park skating and then we fuckin’ went out to dinner that night to Hooters and you were barking. Do you remember barking in Hooters and almost getting kicked out?
Yeah, you guys fired me up with the barking thing so I started barking at the Hooters waitresses. Then the manager came out just screaming at me.

Kevin Baekkel Roll In 750Gettin' buck is the international language. Drop in, pop over the stopper

That was so funny. I was like, “He doesn’t speak any English. I’ll tell him to stop barking.” They thought you were barking at the waitresses or something.
I was definitely a little lost in the States at that point. I was so young.

Well, you were 14 out here solo and just making do with what you had.
I met you guys, so you guys took care of me.

A couple of months later you came out to LA and started to stay with the homies. You pretty much started living with me for three months on and three months off. What was that like?
That was crazy. I got an invite from you guys to come over and I just went for it. Since then I’ve just been going back and forth ’til now pretty much.

We were both about 15 at the time. Were you still going to school?
Yeah, I was going to school in Norway at that time.

What’s up with school in Norway? At what age do you stop going? When you moved out here you started doing the US home-schooling, right?
Yeah, so I did the Norwegian schooling and you can stop when you’re 15 or 16. After that it’s up to you what you want to do. Then I went and stayed with you and I tried to do independent studies on the Internet so I could stay out there skating.

How did that go? What was it like all of a sudden doing school in a different language?
It was so fucked. I tried to do my best but I definitely didn’t do too well.

Your mom came out to my house and set it up and I don’t think you even did one assignment.
I did a couple but I definitely had some help from you and some of the other homies. But that was my good excuse to get to the States. It was like, If you’re going over there you gotta do some school. And I was like, Yep, I’ll do it.

kevinbaekkel pullquote I never really go out and skate street like you guys did in the states
Coming out and living in LA at such a young age, how did that shape your skating? Did it change it?
Yeah, kinda. When I got there I was looking at all these videos and then actually going to those spots and seeing how gnarly shit actually was. It was like, Dude, shit is fucking crazy. Everyone over here in the States is on such another level of skating—way more consistent with skating bigger shit. At home I was pretty much just skating parks. I’d never really go out and skate street like you guys did in the States, so that was a whole new thing for me. But it was super sick.

Were the spots rougher or were they just bigger than what you were used to?
No, it was definitely cleaner spots but they’re just way bigger than they look in the videos. Just going to some rails and shit and you’re like, Whoa, holy shit; this is gnarly.

How was your English back then? What was it like basically being in a whole different world?
It was definitely weird but I had you guys around and that for sure helped me out. But like going to restaurants and shit, I’d have a hard time ordering because it was like, You want a beverage? And I’m like, What the fuck is a beverage? Is that a side or something?

Kevin Baekkel Black Metal Portrait DZIs it blasphemy to eat noodles by a church? Kevin couldn't care less either way

Americans always have to throw some special lingo in there to throw you off.
Yeah, so it was definitely hard in the beginning. But I feel like I picked it up pretty quickly after actually staying there for months at a time.

I remember not long after you started coming out here, a lot of people would confuse you as an American when we were in Europe. What was that like? You got any funny stories?
I used to have a fake ID from the States and I’d run it here and just try to speak American to go to the bars. And it worked. They’re just like, Where are you from? And I’d be like, I’m from California. I’d show them the ID and they’re like, Alright, you’re chilling. I was 16 and the ID said I was 25.

kevinbaekkel pullquote Every time I come out to the states I'm way too hyped
Do you think when you have time away from the US, when you come back you’re rejuvenated so you’re ready to go on a rampage and skate while you’re there?
For sure. Every time I come out to the States I’m way too hyped.

I feel like that’s one of the best parts about not living here, is when you visit you get to skate all these new spots and you have a fresh outlook on the whole scene.
That’s like the best thing, yeah. I know you guys always go to all the same stuff but there’s always new shit when I get there—or new places and new little cities to go to, so it definitely gets me juiced up.

What about traveling around Europe?
The last couple of years I’ve been traveling a lot in Europe—Spain, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Denmark.

What’s your favorite place other than the US to go skate and film?
Australia. I been there three times now and it’s always the best time. They’ve got so many cool spots.

It kinda sucks that Australia is super locked down right now. But Norway’s pretty strict, too. Has it been a struggle to try to film your Emerica and Creature video parts with all of the travel restrictions?
It’s definitely been hard. The first year was only in Norway—just traveling around and going to all these little cities trying to find spots that we haven’t seen before. But it’s always hard in Norway ’cause not that many people have a car. We always just go with the Metro or the train and skate around. But that year we got to drive around a little bit more and definitely found a lot of stuff. But it’s harder here, for sure.

Kevin Baekkel Wallride Yank 750 When he's not slaying slopes, he's down to get vertical. Needle-threaded wallride backside grab

How does it work out there if you need to fix up a spot since it’s harder to bring stuff with you?
Right before the COVID shit started I went on Google Maps and found like 100 spots and I went and checked every single one of them to see if they were good. So I’d just spend my days taking the tram or the buses around, just going to look at stuff and then figure out what I would need to bring with me to fix the spot if it needed fixing.

I feel like you’re secretly a Google Maps guru—you’re on a whole different level. Or like you’re a Google Earth guy ’cause of the size of rails you skate. What’s it like when you find a rail on Google Maps and then you go check it out? Does it normally work out?
Sometimes it works out. There’s just so many hours of lurking and then you find certain things. But yeah, most of the times they’re actually good or can get fixed to be able to skate it. It usually works out, but sometimes it’s just fucked—like it’s way too gnarly or just way too tall or some shit like that.

Do you like finding stuff on Google Maps or do you like seeing a spot while you’re in the van and hopping out to skate it?
I kinda like both. Just finding new shit, it’s fun as shit. Finding stuff that no one’s ever skated before, that’s the best thing.

When you’re skating a spot that no one has ever touched, how do you go about approaching it?
Rolling up 1,000 times first, at least. Nah, if there’s an opportunity to actually get on it—if you’re talking about a rail—and jump off and not get fucked up then you can test out anything. So the process is pretty much doing that for a little while and just getting confident.

You and I will watch snowboard and rollerblading videos together and you’ll hit up the rider and ask them for spots.
I do that shit all the time. When I see a spot I’ll just send anyone a fuckin’ message and ask them where it is. Most the times they send the pin so it’s pretty sick. Yeah, snowboarders, skiers, BMXers, bladers.

And it works out; they kinda back it. And there’s a lot of snowboarders out in Norway and a bunch of them also skate, huh?
Yeah. Usually when I ask them they’re super nice and give me the pin, then they’ll ask if I have some and I’ll send them some spots so it goes both ways. It’s pretty sick.

I feel like that opened up new doors in my mind. Every time I watch a snowboard video I’m always pausing it and taking screenshots, ’cause those dudes can do some gnarly rails.
Yeah. And they find some good ones, too. They’re hunting on a different level.

KEVIN BAEKKEL BS BOARDSLIDE FINAL DZBack board, never mind the gap     Photo: Ponsero

Do you think you could do a bigger rail on your snowboard or on your skateboard?
Fuck, I’m not sure. It depends. But I have done a big one on a snowboard. There’s fuckin’ snow on each side so fuckin’ ride it out. But doing kinks on a snowboard—that’s some gnarly shit.

So what’s it been like filming lately since you’re not in the van with the crew?
It’s definitely been a little harder. Being in the van is the funnest thing ever. Going out here has been more like finding something and then just going and doing it—that kind of thing. It’s not just driving around hoping you’re gonna find something. It’s been more like, Alright, I’m gonna skate this spot, this spot and this spot.

So it’s a little more strategic.
Yeah, it’s a bit more planned out. But I got to spend some time in Spain with my homie Jack Thompson. He got a little minivan so we got to rip around in that thing.

Jack’s the man. It seemed like you skated some crazy spots in Barcelona that most people don’t really see when they go there. Is that all Jack?
Yeah, Jack is the fuckin’ spot guru down there. He knows where everything is and he keeps finding stuff all the time. The two of us will sit at his apartment in Barcy and just lurk Google Maps for hours and we just find shit.

KEVIN BAEKKEL nosepick drop VDT L1009458 ph Vi Duc Truong DZ 2000Nosepick yank into the bank, the Hammer from Hamar is always dropping hammers     Photo: Truong

What’s it like handling two parts at once? What’s your process?
I’ve just been filming—just going around trying to stack whatever I can get. That’s pretty much been the process.

So what’s up with this Emerica video? Do you know who you’re paired up with?
I think it’s gonna be me, Winkowski and then the new guy on Emerica—the homie Chris Wimer. I think there’s also going to be a team montage. I think it’s gonna be sick.

I think it’s cool that Emerica has been pairing up riders when their footage is ready. It seems like less pressure than waiting on a whole team video.
Yeah, I like those little shorter videos that just focus on a couple people and then have a team edit. I think the Creature video is gonna be kind of the same style.

Kevin Baekkel Backside Grind 750 2Through kinks and caps, Kevin can't be stopped. Backside 50-50 to box bash

How long have you been working on these two projects?
I’ve probably filmed for both of them for about two years. But we didn’t really know what was going towards what—I’ve just been stacking footage and now I’m trying to divide it into two parts.

With it being winter in Norway now, how are you gonna approach the deadlines for these two projects?
Well, I was hurt for like four months and then I got to skate a little bit over the summer and now I’m hurt again, so I’m just trying to heal up from this injury so I can get at least one more month of filming. I’m just doing my physical therapy on my ankle so hopefully I can get some time before the deadline.

kevinbaekkel pullquote Once my ankle's good, I'm there on the first flight
Are you gonna come out to the US?
The US is opening now, so yeah—I’m coming straight there. I haven’t been there in about a year. Once my ankle’s good, I’m there on the first flight.

Dope. Well I’m looking forward to seeing you again.
Yeah, fuck—miss you big time.

Fuckin’ love you, Kev.
Love you too, man. I can’t stay this long away from you.

Alright, well I guess we’ll just end it there then and let you hit the bar. Cheers, man.

Kevin Baekkel fs smithgrind L1000278 viductruong DZ 2000Front Smith on home turf, there’s a throne waiting for Bækkel in Valhalla for damn sure     Photo: Truong
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