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Mike – Shaped By The Board
For this second interview I'm really happy and grateful that Shaped By The Board's mastermind find time in his very busy schedule to answer these few questions. Cheers Mike!
First things first; can you shortly introduce yourself?
Yeah sure, my name is Michael Grabler, I am 30 years old and I am a skateboarder from Lower Austria.
At a time when almost everyone have their noses stuck on their screens, what motivates you to publish a printed zine?
Well, honestly when I started this whole project I wasn't thinking about mobile phones and the addiction that comes with modern technology, maybe because I am now one of the older skateboarders in my area. When I started skateboarding there were a lot of magazines I really loved to read or just to look at the awesome photography in those zines. I cannot imagine that there could ever be a time in the future where I have to read everything from a fucking screen. When I want to read a book, for example, I will visit a bookstore and when I want to read a skate-magazine I will visit one of my favourite skate-shops. The smell of a brand-new magazine is simply unique and reminds me of awesome times on my deck or with my homies. When I started this whole magazine project I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback I got after releasing the very first issue. People were really interested and I also got my first international partners even before I released issue 1 – at this point: shout outs to all of my shop partners and partners in crime, especially the mighty RUFUS SKATESHOP from Barcelona/Macba which is supporting this magazine since day one (!!!). I think skateboarders are still interested in physical copies of skateboard zines, but unfortunately not that many than five or ten years ago. My little project evolved pretty fast and not because people are reading the issues online, no, the most skateboarders I was talking about magazines in general feel exactly the same about skate-zines like I do. I think the main motivation why I am doing this is the connection to the national and international skateboarding scene, the people who are reading this piece of paper and are giving me feedback and of course the love for skateboarding in general.
Why "Shaped by the Board"? Where does the name come from?
Skateboarding means the world to me. I love everything about skateboarding and it shaped me, made me the person who I am, it affects my whole life since I took the very first step on my very first deck and helps me a lot to deal with this fucked-up world and its fucked-up problems, my fucked-up problems and so on. I got shaped by all my friends I met through skateboarding. I got shaped by all the bails and every single sense of achievement (learning a new trick or overcoming fear etc.). I got shaped by all my experiences I made with my deck... I think you get what I mean... I got "Shaped by the Board"...
Do you have Magazine references? What inspires you?
You should definitely check out the ABD Magazine, Vienna's finest skateboard zine. I also love THE SKATE WITCHES, GREY, CONFUSION and IRREGULAR. There are too many awesome magazines out there at the moment, but these are currently my top five. I am also into hardcore-punk/metal and this scene also inspired me a lot, I loved reading fanzines like THE WORLDS HAVOC, CHEATING DEATH or THANKS FOR NOT GIVING A SHIT, but the magazines that inspired me the most were the BOARDSTEIN magazine and the YEYO skate-mag. Those were my favourite magazines when I started skateboarding. There were of course also some other amazing magazines like AVENUE or LAST TRY, but I always loved the funny style of BOARDSTEIN and YEYO's perfect design and I still have some issues of those zines at home and I am still reading them.
Publishing your own zine is an amazing opportunity to send out a message or an idea. Is there one or more messages you try to communicate with SBTB?
Yeah of course, since I started this magazine I also wanted to deliver some good (in my opinion) messages. I really care about our environment, but that wasn't always the case, I also was a disrespectful human being in the past only caring about myself and I still have to work on a lot of things that I was taught totally wrong by our fucked-up society and skateboarding also helped me a lot to break out of this society. This is the reason why I started to record my own evolution and to write it down into the intro or outro. But there are a lot of other messages hidden in this magazine, no matter if it is a short article about DIY or some angry words hidden in some interviews (never attacking my interview partners of course haha). SBTB also always takes a stand against homophobia, racism, sexism, fascism or any other kind of hate.
Publishing a magazine is a lot of work. How does the making of an issue work? With whom do you work?
This is absolutely true, but I like that kind of "work" so it is not that bad for me haha. Every time I have finished a magazine it takes me about two months or less for promotion, selling merchandise and whatever until I am able to start working on the next issue. At first, I write down with whom I would like to work which is a personal decision, then I write those people a message telling them about the magazine and asking them if they would like to work with me. After I got the promises of those feature partners I start working out a concept for the next issue (who is doing an interview, which partner would be better represented by an article and so on...). Then I start working out questionnaires, articles, intro, outro etc. I totally depend on my feature partners because it would be impossible for me to travel around Austria and some parts of Europe to shoot some photos and so on. My feature partners provide me with super awesome photos, answer all my questions and some of them also represent themselves with a neat article they write for me. Then everything left to do is creating them a good platform for representing them, designing everything, putting everything into place and after everything is finished of course the hardest part of it all: finance the whole thing haha... I do everything on my own, but my crew and my family are supporting me since day one – shout outs to the TTF CREW, my band STILLBORN and SKATEBOARD KULT STOCKERAU.
Besides the time needed for its making, the production of a magazine isn't costless. How do you manage SBTB's financial aspect?
Unfortunately, producing a magazine with good quality is very expensive and at the beginning I had no idea how I could finance this magazine without ending up in total chaos, but everything worked out pretty good for me. After I released the second issue I decided to produce some merchandise to finance the zine. I started with monk-caps and sunglasses and hoped that some people would help me out with buying those products. I set up my first online shop and started selling my products. Unfortunately, it was not the best decision to start with caps and sunglasses, but after a while I managed it to get back the money for issue two and so I thought this would be a good way to finance my mag in the future. When I released my third issue in the winter I also released my second merchandise. I started selling longsleeves and sweaters and that went much better than I had expected. Like I wrote before; everything worked out pretty good for me and I hope I will be able to sell even more merchandise so I am able to continue with this magazine as long as possible. Thanks to every single one who bought some of my merchandise, your support keeps this magazine alive.
Regarding finances, do you accept any kind of advertisers? Or do you impose yourself some kind of safeguards?
I really don't know what the future brings. At the beginning I thought that I do not want any advertisement in the magazine, because I wanted that people are focused on the features and not on advertisements, but today I think under some circumstances I would also work with some small brands or shops, but I am not really sure about this topic. In the last years more and more shops started ordering magazines and I am super happy about that, but the costs are increasing and maybe the day will come when I need some help from brands paying me to place some advertisements in the zine.
In the recent years the interest in print media has continually decreased. Skate-Mags are increasingly harder and harder to find, even in skate-shops. Do you worry about that?
No, I don't worry about that. I think it depends where you're from and how much the skate scene of an area demands skate-mags. In Austria I never walked into a local shop which had no skateboard magazines. There are of course the big shops offering everything, but that has nothing to do with true skateboarding, because those shops are like giant supermarket chains and are far away from true skateboarding (my opinion), no heart – only profit matters – but I would not call those shops skate-shops haha... I think as long as the scene is interested in magazines I do not have to worry.
At the same time, I have the impression that the less people buy zines, the more offer increases. Do you share that view?
I wouldn't say that I share that view, but I understand your point of view. I think you have more experience with spreading zines all over the world. I think it is much harder to sell magazines than giving them away for free when nobody knows anything about the zine. Underground DIY skate-zines have to fight much harder for their existence than others have to. But I am pretty happy how this whole scene evolved. It always puts a smile on my face when I see new skate-mags appearing in this small unique scene. Shout outs to you man for all your effort you put into your store.
Any plans for the future? How do you see SBTB's future?
Continuing my work with this magazine as long as possible and skateboarding as long as my body can take it. I am also working on some video projects and I really would like to do some collaborations in the future, so a lot planned, hope everything works out the way I want it. I hope the future brings more skater-owned projects I am able to support by giving them a free platform to present themselves, but I am not thinking too much about the future, I am just happy how people react to the zine and that I am able to do this.
To conclude, if you had to choose between a session with your homies or finishing the next edition, what would you do?
I would go for a skate with my boys and girls. The magazine is not my regular work so skateboarding always comes first haha...
Last words? Any shout outs?
Thank you so much for this opportunity, this means a lot to me. Shout outs to the TTF Crew, Skateboard Kult Stockerau, STP-Skate Association, Confus, ABD, Jürgen Völkl Photography, Mario Kickinger, Lisa Veith, Sascha Jirku Filmer – Skateboarder – Photographer, The Elders, Charlotte Hym, Nostalgia Skateboarding, Michael Widowitz, Marten Maxwell, Boardthing, Spoff Parks, Skate- Community Melk, Kape Skateboards, Philipp Josephu, Option Skateboards, Lea Schäfer, Ungustlpartie, Kulla Skateboard Jewelry, Sofa King Skatewax, Lu (my mysterious sticker guy), my whole family – especially my sister, my brother and my wife, my band comrades from Stillborn, if I have forgotten anyone I am sorry – I love you all.