FEATURE 28

Round-trip letter with TG

Tommy Guerrero is a skateboarding legend and musician who is familiar with DESCENDANT.
The feature is a round-trip letter between Tokyo and San Francisco, exchanged by the director Nishiyama and Tommy, prior to releasing his 11th new album.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
Hi! TOMMY,
Long time no talk.
It's been a while since we last met.
Congratulations on your 11th album release!
I enjoy listening to it. It's become quite memorable in many ways.
I hope you, your family, and your friends are doing well during this pandemic that the world is facing.
My relationship with you goes back to when I was a teenager and was crazy about skateboarding.
In the '80s, you were a pioneer in the world of street skateboarding, and I was a fan.
Over time, you became an active musician, attracting very passionate fans all over the world. When you would travel to Japan, I was fortunate enough to get to know you through our mutual friends.
In 2019 we had you featured in the ZINE within our catalog, as well as enjoying a long-awaited skateboarding session!
In the same year, you performed at a private live performance we had for the photo exhibition produced by DESCENDANT's publishing label Sign, a reality I could never imagine happening when I was a teenager.
Naturally, our lives are a series of unexpected encounters. No one was expecting that we would be facing a pandemic on a global scale.
I heard you were planning to visit Japan this year to coincide with your new album's release.
Typically, if you had come, we would have gone to see you and enjoy the live performance, then head over to an izakaya afterward and have a friendly conversation.
However, the current situation doesn't allow us to do so, so I would like to have an interview in the form of a round-trip letter between Tokyo and San Francisco.
Let's get started.
You are a musician, a skateboarder, and a father. What inspires you in each role? 
TOMMY
GUERRERO
Hi! TET
None are separate from the other so there is really only 1 “role”.
I'm influenced by all that is around me – people, places, ideas, etc.
I can't really say what exactly drives me other than trying to be a decent human. 
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
Inspiration can come from everything you encounter in life.
At the same time, I feel we also draw inspiration from others.
From respected cultures, family and friends, there's an unlimited amount of inspiration available, but it's up to us to take it in or not.

There is a part of me that I am aware of that originates from Tokyo, which has given me tremendous inspiration. Do you think your life in San Francisco has helped you establish your style as a skateboarder and musician?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
I don't think so. Music is universal and it's in the ether- in the air so to speak. Just depends on what you're open to at the time-if you can receive the message. 
SF did foster a sort of self exploration-a welcoming place to figure out who you are or want to be. I think that's why so many interesting characters have emerged from SF, it was ok to be different from the masses and the mainstream.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
Please tell us a little about San Francisco.
What does San Francisco mean to you?
Do you think inspiration derives from where people live?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
I think geography can play a role in creative thinking. We can be informed by our surroundings if we are paying attention. 
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
Each place has its particular style, like NY, LA, and SF.
I was attracted to American youth culture when I was a teenager. Almost all the movies I watched at that time were American ones.

It isn't the best, but I learned English from watching movies rather than learning it in school.
That's how much I loved movies, but l love the music within the films even more so.
Could you share with me your favorite movie scores and soundtracks?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
I'm not a big movie buff so I don't have a well of knowledge to draw from. That said I dig Morricone's spaghetti western scores – I'm sure that's obvious. John Carpenter's movie scores have a great quality to them. Perfect for his  films.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
I like Carpenter's work too.
The soundtracks give you various emotions during the movie.
Most of the movies and music I absorbed were during my impressionable teen years were American.

What kind of country is America to you?
I believe you were born in the '60s. What kind of changes have you experienced?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
Considering where America is now not much. It seems to be cycling through the same bullshit. That the powers that be haven't learned a thing and that people keep voting against their best interests.
I had hoped that we were done with overt racism but that's far from true now. Willful ignorance is rampant.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
A quote “END RACISM” was written on the skate deck in the skate video “Public Domain” released in 1988.
What drove you to express that at that time?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
From reading non fiction/American history and the struggles of brown people in America.
The board is my vehicle for the message. Luckily Stacy was cool enough to leave it in.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
Personally, at that time, it was a statement that stuck with me.

For me, San Francisco is a sacred place for skateboarding.
I was greatly influenced by the SF scenes that you appear in, in “Future Primitive.”
Because of the geography of SF, downhill is a local's basic. Which descent do you recommend?
Could you share with us an exciting episode you had during a downhill session?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
9th avenue run is a series of hills – we would take a bus to the top and cruise down about 2 miles worth of hills dotted with driveways, steps, curb cuts etc. a skatepark in the streets.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
“A skatepark in the street.”
It is a view of a skateboarder who reads the geography.
It is your uniqueness because you are a street skater pioneer.

There must be a long relationship with your bandmates, Chuck and Matt.
Is there also a deep bond with them with skateboarding?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
I have known Chuck for almost 40 years. Matt over 25.
Skating is the bond because we have had the same experiences, trials and tribulations etc. we have fallen down and gotten up more times in one day than the average person will in their entire lives. This breeds a specific type of person. So we can relate in a unique way. 
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
The last time we met was in 2019 when you came to Japan.
It was when I asked for a secret concert for Taro Hirano's exhibition produced by DESCENDANT's publishing label Sign.
We are very grateful to you for performing in such a guerrilla environment.
TOMMY
GUERRERO
It was a great time!
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
I still remember the cap you wore, which had the word “DUB” printed on it.
I assume you made it yourself?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
Don't wait for someone else to make your ideas/thoughts into reality.
Do it now and do it to the best of your ability. Use what you have. 
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
I believe my DIY spirit made me who I am today.
Not to wait for someone else to do it for you. We created something we believed we were supposed to do.
I'd like to hear what DIY means to you.
TOMMY
GUERRERO
If you wait for the “right” moment or the “proper” tools/equipment to begin a new endeavor then you’ll probably never get to it.
The right moment is now with the tools/skills at hand-whatever they may be.
You do it out of the need not the want. What I do keeps me sane, grounded as well as gives me purpose.
Don’t rely on others to fulfill your needs/ideas/dreams etc.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
You have been to Japan many times now.
Where is your favorite venue to perform in Japan? 
How do you spend your time in Japan?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
I've played so many different venues in different cities that it's difficult to say. The audience has so much to do with what makes a great show-it could be a run down punk club but if the energy is there then that's what leaves a lasting impression.
That said Club Metro in Kyoto is always a blast! And duo MUSIC EXCHANGE Inc. in Shibuya because Mr. Ryota Nishimura is the coolest.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
The readers might be surprised, but when you would visit Japan, we would go to a Yakitori place in Shibuya.
Could you tell us your three favorite restaurants in Japan?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
I don't know the names of most of the places but Toritake is my fave in Shibuya. Also Usagi Ramen.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
Toritake is great. I have been going there since I was a high school student.
We went there a couple of times after your live performance.

For the new album's release, could you please explain a bit about it?
TOMMY
GUERRERO
It has a similar feel to The Endless Road but perhaps a bit more diverse. It sounds like a “TG” record. That's actually the best way to describe it.
Cover art is by Brian Barneclo – I've been a fan for years. i approached him with the boombox idea when I came up with the album title and not only was he willing but he was excited to do it. He used to skate back in the 80's so we had an immediate connection. Stoked the way it turned out.
TETSU
NISHIYAMA
“TG” record.
Very easy to understand.
As a fan, I'm sure that I will enjoy it!
Brian Barneclo, who did the cover art, is also an artist based in San Francisco.
I think it is an excellent encounter to meet someone who was skating in the '80s, and it is a fantastic collaboration.

A round-trip letter is different from a regular conversation or email, which gives unexpected communication and fun.
I hope I can see you in person the next time we speak.
Thank you very much.
TOMMY
GUERRERO
Thnx TET.
Hope the fams well amigo.
TG
TOMMY GUERRERO Sunshine Radio
Available on 1/20/2021
CD *Currently, only available in Japan.
TOO GOOD/ RUSH PRODUCTION/ OCTAVE-LAB OTLCD2530
Liner notes:Hashim Bharoocha
Photo by Claudine Gossett
  • TRACKLIST
  • 1.By the Sea at the End of the World

  • 2.Evolution Revolution
  • 3.Of Things to Come
  • 4.Descendent of Memory
  • 5.Down Thru Light
  • 6.A Thousand Shapes of Change
  • 7.Future Deserts
  • 8.Up From the Dust
  • 9.Quiet Heat
  • 10.Rise of the Earth People
  • 11.Mysterious Frequencies
  • 12.The Road Under My Shoes
Available on 1/20/2021
CD *Currently, only available in Japan.
TOO GOOD/ RUSH PRODUCTION/ OCTAVE-LAB OTLCD2531
Liner notes:Hashim Bharoocha
Photo by Claudine Gossett
  • TRACKLIST
  • 1.Starlight Lullaby
  • 2.Expanding Night
  • 3.Twilight
  • 4.Floating Fire
  • 5.Traveling Light
  • 6.Below the Black Canopy
  • 7.Painted Hills
  • 8.Broken Plains
  • 9.Wonder Valley
  • 10.Agua Morena
  • 11.Rain Shadow