Michael Braud’s latest video BARS dropped like a ton of bricks on our heads a couple of weeks ago. Braud’s no compromise rollerblading mentality transcended really well into his filming and editing style, and honesty, could you imagine him releasing a video different that what BARS is? Michael has been a favorite of Be-Mag for years now, having been featured on the cover and numerous print issues in the past, so with the release of BARS, we caught up with the man, trying to pick his brain about BARS, his personal life and the people he chose for the film.
Intro and words: Josip Jagić
Photography: Erick Garcia
I noticed your Berkeley.edu email address, can you tell me something about what has been going on in your life in the past few years since your last full part? It was three years ago in The Drought, right?
When I was skating for The Drought, I was in Community College in Sacramento and it was a wild and strange time for me. I hit my neck about two weeks before my last round of finals at community college in April 2014, so that was the last of my section, and the last of me skating for about 8 months afterward. I was heavily involved in campus organizations and pretty much my entire life revolved around school when I started at UC Berkeley in the Summer of 2014. I skated here and there with Dan and Voss towards the end of my time at school, but I was pretty involved with campus life until mid-2016, which is why the video took so long. Since then, I’ve graduated from Cal, worked for a progressive political organization group, worked delivering food for a little after the election while I looked for a job, and now I work for a global law firm as a legal secretary.
Bars is one of the rawest and badass videos to come out recently. It has a very Pat Lennen Apples series flavor to it, was that on purpose or just a coincidence?
To be honest, I don’t really see many similarities between BARS and The Apples that Fell Far from the Tree, Them Apples, or other Lennen/Cullen videos, but if that’s the vibe you get, that’s the vibe you get, I guess! I was just trying to make something that I enjoyed watching and that properly portrayed my view of the people I hang out with.
How long did the filming take? Some of the footage looks older? But, this is also an issue… how do you feel about people just endlessly putting out new stuff, even though the quality of some of it is below par? Do you think the proliferation of filming equipment and making it so democratised had de-sensitised rollerbladers to rollerblading?
Since I was really involved with school from the Summer of 2014 through 2015, I didn’t get out too much except to skate with Dan (I shot 3 tricks for Voss’s section in 2015, none with Cameron). The vast majority of the skating happened in 2016, and then a few more tricks got shot in 2017 (my section has clips from a wide range of years). I had a different camera that got stolen along with my laptop in late 2015 while I was skating a skatepark in SF and we shot some stuff with Voss’s VX which is why some of the clips look different. I have always liked things shot on multiple mediums, and I didn’t want this video to be stuck exclusively in the HD era, so I went with the quality of skating versus the quality of resolution.
On the second question, I think over-saturating people with anything is usually not a good idea from a marketing standpoint. But, if putting out a bunch of stuff online showing your day-to-day progression is what you want to do and it makes you happy, then you should go for it! Same goes for anything else. If it makes you happy and it’s not hurting anyone, have a blast. I’m not going to hate on you for it.
I don’t think the over-saturation of things has made people desensitized to rollerblading, but definitely to a certain delivery of blading. Rad blading will always be sought after by bladers. Random youtube edits will probably not.
Did you have an idea of who you wanted to feature in the video or was it a matter of who was available to film?
The original idea for the video was to have On the Rise: The South to showcase Ray Kronenberg and Anthony Armstrong, and then have On the Rise: The West with Josh Hayes, Matty Schrock, and myself. Basically, Southern bladers (Anthony is from Long Beach, but lived in the South for almost a decade) skating all over the country. I started shooting with Matty and planned to skate with Josh for the video. I ended up moving from the Bay out to the Sacramento area, and then not too long after that Matty moved back to the South. Josh got injured (torn rotator cuff), so both of those kind of went out the window. I had met Dan in 2012 or 2013. Dan and I are kind of cut from two sides of the same cloth, so we get along well. In 2014 when I started at UC Berkeley, I started shooting with him regularly. I met Voss in 2015 through Dan. John said he wanted to shoot more stuff and I thought that’d be rad, so we started making his section. At that point, I resumed dating a girl that lived in SF, so us three were the main crew skating big stuff living in San Francisco. Cameron moved back to the Bay in early 2016 and he rounded out the crew, so it really became a thing centered around the city and our crew rather than any idea I had. The video is about the Bay, and this is who I was skating with at the Bay at this time.
Comparing the South of the US to SanFran, landscape wise, do you think the video could have turned out differently when it comes to tricks? Or does SF make people do crazy shit?
Well, where I’m from has a lot of big hills, so it’s kind of similar, but SF definitely is a whole different beast overall. I started bombing hills in 2000 when I first started skating. So, I think being from a place with a lot of hills and having a deathwish made it easier for me. That being said, if you don’t like to go really fast on your blades, you probably won’t be able to use SF to its full potential.
The Bay definitely breeds talented skaters. Whether it’s the landscape, the pressure of succeeding in one of the most expensive places in the country, or a combination of both, people do amazing things here. At this point, SF and Oakland have been skated by the best of the best, so you’re kind of forced to either do the best-ever technical stuff on the same spots everyone has skated, or really start to go outside the box in creativity or in the magnitude of tricks. Any of those options is going to be pretty crazy.
Talking about crazy shit, you have always been known as a daredevil, but in BARS you (excuse the lame pun) set the bar even higher. While you still go for the crazy big spots, now you have thrown in some really tech stuff, which makes some of the manouvers seem almost unbelieveable, like the tilted gap through the tree? What is your personal favorite trick you did in the video?
I honestly wish I had more technical stuff in the video. I have learned a lot of new tricks in the past year or two and I wanted to find good spots for them, but injuries kind of kept me from getting to everything I wanted to (had some good attempts at a couple tricks that I wanted to do that will be out in a b-roll section soon). My favorite trick is either the topsoul on the steep kink with the poles at the bottom or the line where Stephen Babcock rolled up and skitched me to the gap. The topsoul dislocated my finger on the first fall, so that was one battle I luckily won.
Also, how do you keep your body from falling apart? Every spill you took would have taken some bladers out of the game for a longer while?
Well, it’s not exactly in pristine condition, but I’m not a total cripple either. I have luckily never had any serious long-term problems with my back, which is a combination of serious luck, skating regularly for 17 years and staying very active my entire life. That is probably the only reason I can still do big tricks. I am very conscious of my body and it’s equilibrium. But, I don’t do yoga or stretch. Maybe I should? I don’t know. I feel pretty great all things considered, and am just as flexible as I have ever been.
At the same time, I am pretty much constantly injured. I have only skated a handfull of times in 2017, and I have gotten pretty badly hurt almost every time. The circulation at my extremities is terrible, my left hand is fairly destroyed from the fall in Black Market in 2005, and I only have one carotid artery left, so it’s not like blading hasn’t affected me (PSA: Contrary to Jeromy Stephenson’s story in Black Market, my hand being permanently injured had nothing to do with how long I waited between France and the U.S. The doctor in the U.S. told me they couldn’t fish out the 20-40 fragments of bone that my knuckles had exploded into without causing more damage, and there was no surgery for new knuckles). You can’t skate like I have forever, or you will die at a skate spot or permanently cripple yourself. Somehow I have dodged those happening up to this point.
Now, I’m a vegetarian, I bike 11+ miles almost every day, and I don’t really skate anymore, so I have been feeling a lot better. My plan is to get my body back to 100% and see if I want to keep skating or pursue other things. I have always been really interested in bouldering and used to do it as a kid, so I will probably get into that in the next few years.
How did you decide to make the music selection so eclectic? Did the other guys pick their tracks themselves or did you pick everything?
I had Voss, Dan, and Cameron pick their own music with veto power. I vetoed a couple tracks from Cameron and Dan because I wanted a certain overall feeling from the video and I didn’t think the songs were right for what I was trying to do. We had actually edited an entire section of Cameron to Shuggie Otis – Sweet Thang, and Geoff Phillip, who is one of Cameron’s good friends, randomly made a section to it at the same time! Some crazy ESP vibes going on there. Voss’s song was his first choice. I really liked the idea of that song in particular, and it led to the arrangement of the sections in the video. I consciously chose the music not in the sections from West Coast artists (except, obviously, the Street Hassle section). I delivered food to Earl Sweatshirt in LA one day when I was there shooting the video and making some side-money. It was actually really odd how the music worked out. The music tells a story, and it couldn’t be arranged in any other way.
Even though I saw pretty much every section Cameron Talbott put out in the past few years, and all the edits he was in, his Bars part still surprised me.
Cameron is a surprising guy. Full of surprises, that Talbott. Probably got a Crystal of Surprise and charged it in the sun during the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love. Had to be that, actually.
And why do you think Vossoughi is not pro? Every part he puts out screams pro material, but it seems it won’t happen.
I just paid Voss to skate, so he’s a professional to me. I think Voss doesn’t have products with his name on them for the same reason most people who deserve products with their names on them don’t have them. [Everyone can fill in their go-to reasoning for rollerblading being a joke industry here].
A large part of the feel of the video is not only the skating but also the end credits with all the regrets. Why did you decide to be so personal in it and was it an act of liberation of sorts, for you, at least?
The Street Hassle section is my favorite section, and definitely the most important to me and to the overall conception of the video. It’s the only non-individual section where I ventured away from West Coast artists because there is no other song like it (and no other artist like Lou Reed). While there was and is a long list of people I needed to thank for this video, I have generally thanked them in private. I think my regrets drive me just as much as my thanks, and I felt my regrets would have more value if shared with the people that watch the video and my life in general. With this video, I wanted people to remember that no matter the mistakes you’ve made, you can always try and change, and maybe even create something beautiful in the process.
To keep up with the scene in the Bay Area, check out Filth Juice (www.filthjuice.com). Erick Garcia takes almost all of the photos, and Peter Drozdowski creates a bunch of video content that comes out every few months. Definitely go to www.filthjuice.com to see all of the rad stuff the Bay has been up to.