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Benji – Filthy Ditch Crew
One of many reasons I love skateboarding is that you don’t necessarily need extraordinary facilities to have fun. You can spend hours enjoying this activity on small spots like curbs, manual pads, banks, or a micro quarter pipe. I also dig monomaniac people focusing on a single thing, like Ba.Ku. (Jersey barriers), Fellows Union Curb Club (curbs), Cemental Zine (pools). That's why I'm super stoked to have had the chance of being in touch with Benji, who shares his passion for ditch skating through his rad fanzine «Filthy Ditch Crew».
First thing, can you shortly introduce yourself? (Name, Age, ...)
Benji Osias, 28, living in Los Angeles, California. I grew up in San Jose, went to school and lived in Santa Cruz for 4 years, then back to San Jose, and about 4 years ago I moved down to LA with my girlfriend, we've been here since. I'm Jewish, Colombian, and goofy-footed. I like sandwiches, camping, chess, and whiskey.
Can you tell us about Filthy Ditch Crew? At a time when almost everybody have their noses stuck on their screens, what motivates you to publish a printed zine?
Filthy Ditch Crew is a little black & white zine I make, made up mostly of doodles and pictures of my friends skating, plus some interviews, stories and whatever dumb bullshit pops into my head. I grew up with a really tight skate crew - We'd go skating every weekend, hop on the bus to Sunnyvale or the light rail to downtown San Jose or wherever. We made skate videos, we had a company (BALTA)... those were the days! And of course we've all grown older, we all have our own things going on, jobs, girlfriends, etc. None of us skate as much as we did back then, but we still get out there, cleaning ditches, building DIY's, drinking beers in parking lots. I started the zine to help keep the fire burning, just to send it out to the homies and get everyone re-stoked on skating and traveling and being dirtbags. So I guess you could say my friends and the good times and a chronic fear of growing old are what motivate me to make a printed zine.
Why "Filthy Ditch Crew"? Where does the name comes from?
After moving back to San Jose from Santa Cruz, I started skating with this guy Abe Hughes. We both worked full time, plus he has a wife and kids but we would meet up after work a couple times a week at one of the local skateparks. We got burned out on the park scene pretty quick and decided to try hitting some ditches. We would do some research, google map it, clean em out, skate em... we loved it. Half the time we'd end up at something barely skate-able, or completely fucked, but just the mission of hunting them was worth it. Lurking in a ditch with your bud and a few tall cans beats the hell out of dodging scooter kids and skate-coach dads at the skatepark. I don't remember when exactly, but one day Abe called us the "Filthy Ditch Crew" and I fucking loved it. Shoot, "Filthy Ditch Crew?" Sounds like a biker gang! I asked him if I could use the name when I started the zine a couple years later and he was down.
Do you have any favorite zines that you look to for inspiration? What else inspires you?
I met these guys out in Oakland some years back, Vic, Grandma, Jake... bunch of punker skate rats. I met up with them to skate Lower Bobs and that Pink Taco DIY, sometime around 2015 I think, and Jake gave me a copy of this zine he was making called Turkey Neck. I had seen zines here and there, and kind of knew what they were about, but seeing that issue of Turkey Neck really made it click for me - this shit ruled. Grainy photos of you and your buds skating and dicking around? I loved it. And it just oozed that East Bay vibe, and I thought that was so sick. I'd say that was the original spark of inspiration, but I get inspired by all sorts of crap on a daily basis. Some of the inspiration I think comes through in a really direct way with the zine, others are more subtle, but all of the following have got me stoked and inspired me one way or another: The Larb, Sleep, HP Lovecraft, Black Sabbath, Ray Bradbury, Sin City, The Twilight Zone, Thrasher Magazine, Lowcard, Toy Machine Ads, The Farside, Mark Gonzalez, Weedeater, Xavier: Renegade Angel, Antihero videos, P-Stone videos (RIP), Skateboarder Magazine, Blade Runner, Tiltmode videos, Bulleit bourbon, MAD Magazine...
Publishing its own zine is an amazing opportunity to send out a message or an idea. Is there one (or more) message(s) you try to communicate through FDC?
I don't know if there's really any message I'm trying to put out there. I try to have some sci-fi themes and continuity between the different issues, but I'm not really pushing or promoting anything other than skateboarding. Yeah, I guess that's kind of a message I'm trying to communicate: Skateboarding fucking rules, and it doesn't matter how much you suck. How about that?
Publishing a magazine/fanzine is a lot of work. How does the making of an issue works? With whom do you work?
I enlist the help of my friends for shooting photos, and every now and then I'll ask one of them to write or create something for the zine. Jamie Morton has done all the illustrations for the Hartigan stories and they fucking rule, Andy Bahlman has done some graphics, made some T-shirts and most recently brewed a batch of some pretty damn tasty beers (Filthy Ditch Brew), Quin Troester has contributed some twisted drawings and ramblings, Abe did a few ditch hunting stories, and my sister Gabi did the illustrations for "Quest for Death". But other than that it's just me sitting in my apartment working at the computer, usually drinking whiskey and listening to some stoner metal. Man, these issues always take longer than I expect! My schedule is pretty jacked, I'm working full time and going to school so it can be hard to carve out time to work on the zine, I kind of just squeeze it in when I can.
Besides the time needed for its making, the production of a magazine/fanzine isn't costless. How do you manage FDC's financial aspect?
Luckily, unlike starting a board company or a skate shop, you can make a zine for pretty damn cheap. Especially if it's printed black & white on regular printer paper, like mine is. But you're right, it ain't free. Each time I release a new issue I'll end up spending a few hundred bucks on printing and shipping, plus I like to throw in some extra schwag, like stickers or matches or even beer (Filthy Ditch Brew) and those will cost another couple hundred. I made a website so I could sell them online (www.filthyditchcrew.com) and having places like zinenation sell them is also a big help. I'm not selling huge numbers of these things, not by along shot, but it still helps to take the edge off with the expenses. Plus I get so fucking stoked when someone I've never met orders a zine! That's that underground passion - we support our own.
Regarding finances, do you accept any kind of advertisers? Or did you impose yourself some kind of safeguards?
I've only had a couple advertisements in the zine - a couple ads for Hi-8, my buddy Mike Sidani's skateboard company, and Cutty Clothing, my friend Michael Cutshaw's clothing brand. I was stoked on both of these because they're friends of mine and it felt like we were helping each other out. I really haven't explored the whole advertising thing outside of that - it's hard to picture ads becoming a regular thing in FDC. But I'm open-minded.
In recent years the interest in print media has continually decreased. Skateboarding zines are increasingly harder and harder to find, even in skateshops. Do you worry about it?
I don't know, thats a tough one. Skateboard magazines and skateboard videos both played critical roles in the formation of my love and addiction to skateboarding. I got a subscription to Skateboarder Magazine when I was 11, I got Toy Machine's Jump Off a Building when I was 12, and both made such a huge impression on me that it's hard to imagine how I would have really found skateboarding without them. I mean, don't get me wrong - all the kids at school were skating, the X-Games were hot and once the Tony Hawk video games came out it was everywhere. But it was the magazines and videos that taught me about the real culture of skating, the people, the companies, the music, the art... So I do worry because there's a big part of me that feels if the magazines and videos die out we will have lost something really special. Something that is completely unique to skateboarding, something I can't quite put my finger on but has captivated me for 18 years now. That being said, it seems like skateboarding is still as popular as ever, and the talent level is through the roof. So at a glance it appears that the magazines and videos aren't a necessary component to attract new skaters, further the progression, and keep it alive. And maybe that's true. But I can't help but feel like something is missing.
At the same time, I have the impression that while less people are buying zines, more and more people are making them. Do you share that view?
Dude, it's crazy how many sick zines are out there right now. Cemental, Turkey Neck, Patinho Feio, Gnarbage, The Skate Witches, Confusion, Coven, How Dare You, Fakie To Fakie, Skate Jawn, Pool Dust, Tile Pile... I think you're right, it seems like the big name magazines are failing (except for Thrasher) but the independent zines are thriving. I kind of see the rise in independent zines similar to the rise in DIY and pool skating and small skater owned board companies – and I think these are all direct responses to the incredible mainstream / corporate levels that skateboarding has reached. I mean you have Nike and Adidas sponsoring everyone, skateboarding is about to enter the olympics, and to be honest I don't see that momentum slowing down any time soon. Why would it? Skateboarding is the funnest thing in the world and now people are doing it all over the world, so that global market finally exists for these big companies to sink their teeth into. And that's fine and dandy, because this mainstream popularity will allow millions of kids to get introduced to skating that never would have been exposed otherwise. But you and I both know that the heart and soul of skateboarding doesn't live at the Nike headquarters or on the Olympic podium. It lives in the skaters and communities who live for skateboarding, who bleed for skateboarding. You don't spend hours mixing crete under an overpass, spend all your savings to start a new board company or stay up late into the night working on a little zine because it offers some kind of financial reward. You do it because you love it and you can't not do it.
Any plans for the future? How do you see Filthy Ditch Crew's future?
My fiancé and I are hoping to get married this summer, I'm aiming to become a professional geologist eventually. As far as the Filthy Ditch Crew, definitely going to get some more trips going, we want to do a desert trip, a Pacific Northwest trip, a Mexico trip... we'll see. We all have our own lives and shit going on, it can be hard to coordinate with everyone but when it comes together it's always such a good time. Other than that, I don't really have any plans with the zine. Keep making new issues, keep making doodles and writing stories... actually I would really love to make a video. A Filthy Ditch Crew video. I have some ideas.
To conclude, if you had to choose between a session with your mates or finishing the next edition, what would you do?
Oh man great question, I've encountered this scenario a few times! 9 out of 10 times I will take the session. The only exception is if the zine is in the very very final stages and I'm super close to finishing and printing - once I'm in that zone, nothing can tear me away from working on the zine.
Last word? Any shout outs?
Big shout out to zinenation! Skate zines are the fucking coolest, thanks for putting in the time and money and effort into doing what you do - I really like the approach you're taking, you support the zines and give them a platform to sell and explain exactly what it is and that is really fucking cool. I hope it continues to grow, lets get a zinenation ad in FDC! A big shout out to all my friends - Abe, Adam, Andy, Rick, Cody, Sam, Christian, Justin, Jake, Eric, Bud, the list goes on. Big thanks to my lady, not only does she put up with all my zine bullshit, she supports and encourages me to work on it - she even surprised me with the most badass work station I've ever seen! Love you Tessa. Alright, that's it. Thanks for the interview, this was fun. Hit me up if you're ever in California we'll take you to some ditches!