Introduction by Dave Bloom Interview by Lukas Tönnesmann, Oliver Nermerich & Christoph Böttcher Photography by Felix Strosetzki & Dirk Oelmann Videography by Dirk Oelmann
Since you’ve been rollerblading for such a long time, we are curious as to what your opinion is on the current scene in Germany? Do you feel that there are less raw street skaters than back when you and your crew from Frankfurt – the legendary Frankfurt All Stars – were killing it?
That’s a tough question. The Frankfurt All Stars always focused on street skating, creative stuff that was fun but also involved big tricks. You can say that the city itself made us roll that way as we ran out of spots and had to be creative with what we could find or think of. But, to answer your question: I am a bit sad when I look at the current scene and don’t see something similar to what ‘FAST’ stood for. There are just a few raw skaters left like Gagi Wagenblast and Dominik (Wagner). But, both cannot be seen as fresh blood.
Right in time for Winterclash you decided to bring back Chimera. What can we expect from the company in the future? Are you planning on extending the team or is it your goal to form a strong core team only?
When I made the concept for the Chimera relaunch I thought of a few guys to start with. So, for now the team includes Wagner, Patrick Ridder, and Gabriel Hyden. I do speak to several people but this brand needs to grow slowly. Also, if you take a look at the Chimera webpage, there are so many supporters listed like Mark Stamer or my brother Konni. By the way: he’s fucking killing it in Frankfurt! Better watch out for raw clips right there.
Why isn’t it possible to get some Chimera wheels at skate shops? You can only order Chimera wheels through your website, currently. Is this going to change in the future?
If we just use the website and Facebook to sell wheels we are close to the core scene. If you think our products suck, then I am just two clicks away. Tell me what you like and what you need. Is it the wheel size, the shape, the color? This also makes us faster and cheaper. What we’re trying to do is run a rollerblader company without losing too much money in between. Distribution can help to reach people and raise sales within a minute, but also costs a lot of money. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think what I do is the only way it should be done, but for the Chimera Conspiracy this seems right. Every second I spend on this project just feels good! Maybe Chimera is not the big player that it used to be but now the company can reach people directly and maybe that’s something that is needed – especially in Germany.
By selling Chimera wheels directly to the skaters, you also cut out shops which are a pillar of every local scene. They keep everything alive and when there’s a skateshop in a city there most likely is a strong scene, too. Do you think you need to justify your decision to market and sell your goods out of your own hands?
I am not sure if I need to justify myself, but maybe this is a good opportunity to talk about it. I think you’re right. Skateshops can keep the local scene alive and I am thankful for every shop out there. We don’t have too many shops in Germany, mostly people buy online. Now Ignition is gone too, I am not quite sure how this will affect Berlin and the rest of Germany, but personally I know so many that are not happy at all. Being located in Berlin, Chimera might fill the gap. I think to some out there this brand means something, maybe it’s one of the brands they like most. Maybe people believe in us ’cause our team riders do, too. Who knows, but as long as we might be one of the reasons people still love to put their boots on this can’t be bad for other brands and the shops.
What does Chimera do for rollerblading other than making wheels? What’s the companies’ philosophy?
Chimera is back for a few months now. I think we need a little time to evolve. That’s why this years items are all a part of the “Metamorphosis”-collection. There is some kind of plan, an idea what this could look like in 2012, but I want the community to be a part of it. I hope people want to join and help create their own brand. The next pro wheel in line will involve all of you. That’s the new philosophy. Start all over again and listen to the scene. If there’s something going on, Be-Mag readers will be the first to know.
Can we expect a new Ben H. DVD profile? Are you maybe even planning on filming for another INCIDENT?
I am working on new clips and stuff but don’t want to put too much pressure on myself because of deadlines. It’s not like 3 years ago, I do not have as much time to roll all day, but somehow I feel that I am not ready to sit back and watch the others do the job. At least one more raw section is a dream of mine. I am not even sure when I released my last full section… Talking about Incident, I watched “MASK – The Incident IV” a few days ago. To me it’s like a diary. We’ve filmed for 3 years and I can’t tell how intense it is to watch this one. A fifth movie would be sick. I should think about it.
If you had enough bank in your budget and were able to get use of some of the world’s best rollers, what kind of video format would you create to beat all of the existing current standards?
First of all: What is enough? But, in case my budget was big enough I would make it a mix of acting, action, stunts, and CGI. For some stunts we would build crazy stuff, big ramps, big rails, weird constructs that you can’t find anywhere out there. I would also pay some famous people outside of rollerblading to join the movie like my favorite actors and bands.
Why did you switch from Deshi to Nimh (now SSM)? Didn’t you just get a pro skate before you made the move? What’s the story behind that?
You cannot say I got my pro skate and left. There was a lot of time in between. But, I got a golden Kizer Element frame and left. Damn, that reminds me that I always wanted to put this somewhere as some kind of trophy. Whatever… Deshi was about to become a part of USD. I was told that I could join USD or Xsjado. If you’re almost 30 you don’t give a fuck. It’s not the money and it’s not the official pro status that makes me put a company’s boots on. So, I thought whatever is left of my name could help Nimh and now SSM. I think I was sick of some decisions made, I was sick of the industry and how all of this ruined our sport in so many ways. I lost all my love and all the fun. I moved to Berlin and my life got reloaded. In doing so I may have made some mistakes. Not talking to the Chimera team and not communicating to Powerslide, to Deshi and Kizer anymore, for example. But, I just needed a break.
You are part of the godfathers crew on the SSM team. What is the role of a godfather within the team? How will you represent the SSM team in the future?
Oli Short contacted me in January to see what’s going on. He wanted to know if I still roll, as I didn’t have that much coverage at the time. I told him that I was about to relaunch Chimera and I would love to support SSM. They honored me with the godfather status, which I didn’t know ’til now. I am not pro, can’t be amateur again, there’s no other way to define my status. So, whenever you see me rolling, it’ll be on SSM’s – that’s my way to support.
Are you still living in Berlin? Tell us why you decided to make that move.
Yeah, still living in Berlin. I used to travel a lot. At least once a year I went to the US. I also went to a lot of countries all over Europe and throughout that I visited every major event in Germany. When I stopped traveling that much I spent more time in Frankfurt. I got bored, same clubs, same people, nothing that I could call “inspiring”. To be honest, this place didn’t feel like home anymore. The more I visited Berlin the more I felt how much I liked the capital; the diversity, all of this art, the lifestyle. I picked this as the place to start over again and it worked out perfectly. Rollerbladers like Jochen Smuda and Dan Groner, photographer Alex Schneider and some others always helped out with a couch to crash on – mostly Alex. A big thanks to you guys right here! Also job wise I am very lucky ’cause I work as some kind of consultant and project manager for a market research company. It’s very interesting and so many things I’ve learned during my time as a pro are now very helpful.
Chimera TV: Ben Harmanus Soul Session
How is your good and close friend Jochen Smuda? We heard he is now back on skates again and hot as fire. What’s the old men’s motivation to continue shredding?
I think when everyone around you still rolls or starts to roll again then it’s hard to ignore that. Take your phone and pick a number. It’s pretty easy to find someone in Berlin to go out and roll. Dirk Oelmann, Gagi (Wagenblast), Dom Wagner, Leo Donhauser, Bart Laubsch, Tim Wolff… Should I go on? When I saw Jochen roll I couldn’t believe it. True Kind and Zero Fish like he never stopped. What else to say…? Jochen’s all busy with Ucon. I am so happy this brand is doing well and he can live the life he wants to. The office is just five minutes from my place so we always find some time to hang out.
Last year you visited Brazil with your friend Arne Dahlmeier. How was the experience? You also met up with a lot of skaters during your trip. What is the scene like over there?
It’s not like Brazil was on the list of favorite places I wanted to visit. One day Arne called and told me that for a super special price we could book a flight to Sao Paolo and back. I didn’t waste a minute and said, “Alright, let’s do that!” It was very interesting. People over there are very nice and helpful. I tried to surf but I think a few more lessons are needed. We’ve had one session with JP and his friends and it was great. Everyone seemed chill and not in a competitive mood. Oh, one weird story: Last year I was at a pizza store opening party in Berlin and looked at this girl. I was sure I knew her. Didn’t want to say, “Hey lady, do we know each other?” So, I tried to remember and damn! I met her at a hostel in Floripa, Brazil! So, I said hello and found out that her boyfriend knows Timrobot. Funny… You travel all around the globe and meet each other in Kreuzberg, Berlin just half a year later, realizing that we do have friends in common.
What will be your next vacation destination?
I really need to check out Eastern Europe. It’s a shame, but I never went to Poland or Romania. I would also like to visit Denmark and Holland soon, a few friends – people I haven’t see for so long but got to know through rollerblading.
Does rolling get your endorphins going? Which session, trick, or contest caused the biggest endorphin rush in your body?
I think there were some stunts that got my endorphins going. The rail transfer I did back in 2006 at the IMYTA Amsterdam was a big thing for me. Additionally to the pressure you feel anyways there were thousands of people watching and the competition was about to end. When I go skating I need to find something that no one has ever done. It’s not like this always has to be a killer trick, but it usually is. I enjoy both creativity and stunts – best thing is to combine both. It’s hard for me right now to start all over again. There are some big tricks waiting but I need to stay focused, go back to basics and then take the bigger risks step by step. People will know what I am talking about if they compare all edits I release in 2011. This will be my personal metamorphosis, I think!
I know you currently don’t smoke or get involved with anything of that matter. But were you into drugs at any point in your life? Excessive partying even?
I never smoked and no, never did any drugs. I know I would fuck myself up big time ’cause I am not that good at accepting limits. So, I stick to the things I think I can control. Like, drinking beer and rollerblading. Just kidding. Anyways, what’s up with some pros starting to smoke in their late-20s and posing on trick shots? That’s just ridiculous and shows how lame some so-called pros in my country have become.
What can you recommend to someone that wants to pursue skating as a career? Is there a possibility for that nowadays in your mind?
To be honest, I don’t think that anyone should dream of being a well-paid pro rollerblader nowadays. This does not mean you shouldn’t rock and roll! Push yourself and your friends, upload videos, make a name for yourself, travel, participate in competitions if you like, or at least go there to just hang out. To live a rollerblader’s life changed my life and the lives of my friends. Friends like Jochen Smuda, Jojo Jacobi, Alex Schneider, and Dominik Wagner. Some people will never in their lifetime experience what I have experienced in 15 years of rollerblading. Hell yeah! Start a career and do whatever your heart tells you, but don’t expect all the blood and sweat you put in to come back as some kind of big paycheck – because it won’t. So never forget: There’s a world that doesn’t care about your pro skate and medals and if you don’t want to end up flipping burgers then at least listen to your parents once in a while and take care of your education. Damn, SSM shouldn’t have called me a godfather. I sound more like a grandfather…