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Hiro Matsuo: Between the Ground and Your Shoes

Transworld Skateboarding Japan #87

· Transworld,Burden Skateboards,Hiroyuki Matsuo

Interview: Daisuke Takahashi

Translation & Additional Questions: Nino Moscardi

Photography courtesy of Burden

Life is a Burden – "People deal with a lot of different burdens in life. I just want to keep my passions close so I don’t lose sight of myself."

Hiro Matsuo, Ryota Abe, Kaito Murai. Photo: Yamagishi

So first of all, what's Burden?

Burden is just the name our crew gave ourselves to express what we’re all about. Our crew and our perspective on things. We just want to put out content in all different forms that focuses on skateboarding culture as we see it. For our first production, we released a video called “Between the Ground and Your Shoes” that I got to direct and edit. From here on out, we’d ideally like to work and collaborate with people that share Burden’s creative aesthetic and kind of gather them under our flag so to speak. Obviously we’ll be producing more skate videos, but at the same time, I think it’d be rad to operate within the art, music, photography, and apparel worlds too with skateboarding culture at the core of all our products.

So how did the idea for a full length video come about?  

I put out a part with VHSMag like two and a half years ago, and since then I’ve always wanted to make a video with a bunch of other people. Now that I’m on the older side of the skateboarding spectrum these days, I always loved watching the younger generation of dudes just killing it. I just put the idea out to guys who I’ve always wanted to see full parts from and who were able to make moves around the world with me. We’ve all been filming together for about two years and now it’s finally done.

What’s the concept behind the title “Between the Ground and Your Shoes”?

Well, the most apparent meaning is that the title refers to the space in which the skateboard exists for all skateboarders. But conversely, it’s also what connects skateboarders to the world around them. It’s the world that exists within these several inches between our shoes and the ground that gives skateboarders unlimited enjoyment and meaning. Metaphorically speaking, for our crew, Ryota (Abe), Kaito (Murai), and myself being from the countryside, you could call our hometowns “the ground.” The place where our “shoes” have taken us to live and skate is Tokyo and Yokohama. And skating is the vehicle by which we’ve bridged that distance and our means for traveling all over the world. If we had never skated, we wouldn’t be able to survive the way we do now. That’s essentially the concept behind the less literal meaning of the title.

Who’s in the video?

Ryota Abe, Kaito Murai, and I have full parts. Then for the friends section 5boro pro Akira Ishizawa, Western Expedition's Yoshiaki Toeda, OG Yuto Kojima, Masataka Yamashiro, Tsubasa Kuga, FTC's Ryuhei Kitazume, Kaito Sagawa, Shogo Tanaka, and Element Japan pro Ryo Sejiri all have some tricks.

How long were you working on the video? What was the process like?

We filmed for about two years with our home base being Yokohama and Tokyo. Whenever we had tours or events with our sponsors, we’d always try to hit street wherever we were, and we went abroad to a bunch of places specifically to film too. There’s LA footage in there, but there’s also a lot of China, Taiwan, and Barcelona spots. Including Japan, I think we hit about 5 different countries during the entirety of production. Basically, I did all the filming for the most part, but whenever the timing worked out, we’d hook up with Hide who's the Element Japan filmer, or whoever else could film and get what we could with them too. I also obviously can’t film myself, so for my part, Hide filmed about 40%, Ant Claravall got another 20%, and the last 20% was like an amalgamation of everyone working different angles with the cameras we had.

Kaito Murai, ollie. Photo: Muraken

With a crew as heavy as yours, I’m sure you could have found plenty of filmers who’d be down to work on the video with you, but why’d you choose to get behind the lens yourself to film and edit it all yourself?

Yeah, we probably could have found filmers to work on it with us, but out here in Japan, there’s probably only very few who are as serious about working hard for this particular project as we ourselves are. Having a principal videographer for the whole project makes it easier on everyone though, so further down the line, I’d love to be able to have just one filmer and then a backup filmer for the whole video.

Yeah, nowadays it seems like people who are putting out content and promoting and marketing themselves are much more in demand than before.

Yeah, I think it’s because cheap cameras are way more accessible to everyone now, so almost anyone can go out and film. Likewise, I want all of us to continue getting out there more and more to film and support skateboarding in our own way. With both skating and filming, I just want to keep progressing and challenging myself and the crew to try new things. We used a Canon 60D as the principal camera for this video, but now that I’ve made a full video and it’s really kind of taken a hold of me, I keep thinking like “What would that trick look like if I had used a different camera? Has someone ever filmed from this perspective or this kind of angle?” and all these new obsessions and curiosities keep popping up. I’d love to continue trying new styles and cameras.

Sounds like you’ve gotten heavy into the "making of."

Yeah, I think that’s probably right, but probably even moreso I just like watching them. In junior high and high school, I don’t think a single day passed when I didn’t watch a video (laughs). But whereas before I used to watch videos with mainly only the tricks and the level of skill in mind, now I’ll watch a video and pay much more attention to the content and quality of what makes it look good. The composition of the shots, the editing, the music…It’s really made me appreciate and love videos that much more. I think in order to make a good video, you have to think about all of it as a whole and almost storyboard it out with the skaters’ skill , music, and composition in mind. That’s what really makes the viewer get hyped to go out and skate and that’s the kind of video I tried to make.

Did you have any filming experience before setting out to make this video? How'd you learn how to film and work a camera?

I've actually been filming since I was a kid. I used to have a VX2000 and Century fisheye that the local homies and I put our money together to buy so we'd go out and mess around with it. I used to just watch all the famous skate videos and try to copy the way they filmed. When I was about 23, I bought a DSLR and filming with that really made me want to try and make a full length. I mostly just taught myself how to use it, but my homie Hide, who's the Element Japan videographer, also gave me a lot of good advice. Much appreciated dude!

Ryota Abe, front smith. Photo: Haltac

So you've been on the move for two years now to film this project, but what's been one of the most memorable experiences of the process so far? A lot of things can happen on the road...

Well Japan is a place that takes rules and courtesy so seriously. Like one day, we were just skating around town, and some random dude started yelling at us not to skate in the street. The dude was getting all heated for no reason and started talking all this trash about skaters. He was like "It's skaters like you that are giving people a bad impression about skateboarders and then young kids go and imitate you!" Like "It's in the Olympics now! Go skate at a park!" and shit. I was like dude...what the fuck? Not necessarily a crazy story or anything but I just remember laughing at it after because of how absurd it was. But at the time, it pissed me off some for sure. I just like yelled back at him like "Yo dude, we've been skating forever. What the fuck does it matter to you?" and the dude ended up apologizing after... It actually made me think that like if that's how people in Japan think, then it'll only get harder to skate street in Japan with the whole Olympics thing.

Any real battles for you or the others in finishing up the video? What gave you the most trouble in either skating for it or filming for it?

Actually I think both were super hard. The skating and the filming. Not only is there the pressure to land gnarly tricks, but then I have to put a video together. Film, edit, repeat pretty much. I haven't had a day where I didn't work on it since the deadline four months ago. Especially with putting together the premiere tour.

After making your own video now, has it helped your own skating in any way?

Nah, I don’t think there was really anything particularly special that helped me in how I skate. I just like skating the same way I always do. But it did change the way I look at other people’s skating. Making a video really forces you to consider how you can make the dude’s trick look the best it possibly can on video. Now that I’m the one actually filming and editing the video instead of just doing the skating, I’ve really noticed how the look of a trick can change with a different angle or editing. I just want as many people to see all the hard work we put in over the two years and help spread skateboarding, so this was also the first time we put together and went on a video premiere tour all over Japan.

Hiro Matsuo, front nosegrind. Photo: Haltac

Were there any particular skaters or filmmakers that influenced you and Burden's sense of style?

Well recently, Greg Hunt and Propeller have been a huge influence on how I look at skating and skate videos. I like keeping it simple and clean. I think simplicity helps make the rider, trick, and filming much more apparent.

So to be frank, what are you most hyped on about how the video came out?

We just wanted to be true to skateboarding with the theme of the video. We left our hometowns and came together to live and skate in Tokyo, just a group of young dudes from all different parts of Japan, and used the streets as a stage for representing what skateboarding means to us and the human relationships it creates. Rather than watching the individual parts, it’s more meaningful to watch the video as a whole. Or at least as the filmmaker that’s how I’d want it seen (laughs). And if it gets people to want to go out and shred, all the better!

When’s the video out?

The DVD’s on sale now in shops all over Japan. We put together a tour over the summer and premiered it in 8 different locations all over Japan. And we'll be putting the parts up online further down the line.

What’s next coming down the line for Burden?

Well, I guess I kind of answered it at the beginning of the interview, but we just want to collaborate and work with people who share and appreciate our idea of skateboarding. Personally, I’d love to start working on a second video with new faces too. There's not really anything planned for a second video yet but we're filming a little here and there. Since we're not really a brand, we're kind of just going at our own pace , and then when we have enough for a second video we'll put it out.

Thanks dude. Good shit. Psyched for you.

Likewise, thank you dude.

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