The Hiroki Muraoka Interview
ER Magazine #11
Interview: Yuichi OharaText & Photos: Shinsaku ArakawaTranslation: Nino Moscardi
He’s always delivering quality skating with casual style, and never fadingfrom the media’s eye. He’s of firm mind and natural talent that can giveform to an image. And he’s the kind of skater who has brought to lifeso much that exists in the space between the ideal and the real.Continuously maturing as a skateboarder, Hiroki Muraoka is a dedicatedand natural talent whenever he steps on his board.
How old were you when you first discovered skateboarding?
I was about 9. I learned about it from my brothers who are 5 and 6 yearsolder than me. The first one I had was just a toy, and then later I got ahand me down from my brother was a more legit deck.
So you and all your brothers are skaters? What’s it like when you go back to your hometown in Tottori?
We all just go out skating, go to the hot springs, eat, drink, and sleeppretty much. I go fishing with my older brothers and paint or drawtogether with my younger. They influenced me with all of it. We’re justlike really close friends.
So you generally you would get decks from your brothers?
Yeah, I was always taking their old ones. The first one I actually got newwas in junior high. My dad bought one for me for my birthday and I wasso stoked. It was a really wide Zero complete. After that, the first oneI actually picked out myself I honestly don’t even remember. I firstgot sponsored when I was a junior in high school, so I haven’t reallybought a deck since then. There was a shop in my hometown called FarSide, and one of the older skaters who worked there would always supportme, so I was getting a new deck every month.
Pretty quick to get sponsored, huh. What videos were coming out at the time?
I think I was watching stuff like 411, mouse, Tozai Nanboku, 7 YearGlitch, Static. At the time, Daiki Hosoda had just gotten back fromOsaka so he would tell me about all the new stuff. The parts I liked I’dwatch a bunch of times in one day. I’d get up early, watch a video, goout and skate before going to school, then skate after school and go tosleep. The one I watched most was probably Jake Rupp’s Static part,Kenny Reed’s 7 Year Glitch part, Rob Welsh when he was on Aesthetics,and Jason Adams in the Black Label days. I like skaters that areoriginal and have a sense of individuality.
Sounds like a pretty diverse crowd. Did you have an image or an idea of what kind of skater you wanted to be?
Well I guess I wanted to be like the guys I was watching in the videos. Iliked how unique the style and character of all those guys were, so mygoal was to try and put out photos and videos that left a realimpression on the viewer, you know? I guess it’s the same now though.
Ollie up to ollie over.
So the guys that influenced you were mostly your brothers then? Was there anyone else?
Yeah, too many to count really. My brothers and all the older crew back home,Daiki Hosoda, Hisashi Nakamura, Deshi, Jin Takayama, Hiroshi Kondo,Toru Yoshida, Junichi Gonsho, Kenny Reed, Jake Rupp, Stevie Williams,Kevin Taylor, Matt Rodriguez, Ricky Oyola…the list goes on and on. Asfor young dudes, I’d say guys like Jiro Kaneko are pretty close to me.I’m always being influenced by a really broad range of people.
What is it that you find so inspiring about them?
I think what makes them influential to me is how stylish they all are. Intheir sense of tricks and spots. I think it’s sick to when you excel ata specific style of skating like those guys do. Also, when it’s a dudeyou’re actually going out and skating together with, it’s rad to be ableto see how they approach a trick and what makes them tick.
When did you leave the hometown and start living in Tokyo?
When I was 18, as soon as I graduated from high school I left my hometownand lived in Shonan for about a year. It was like a factory with adormitory attached to it. At the time, I was down for any work I couldget, but I also wanted to skate so that’s why I ended up there. I justsaved up money, got my driver’s license and moved out. I wanted to tryto go to New York, so I was really living as cheaply as I could andworking overtime, night shifts, working through lunch…I had about 10grand saved up at the end of the year so I moved in with my hometownfriend Yasu who was in Tokyo in the Toubu-Nerima area. I’ve been inTokyo ever since. I got my license in the interim when I was living atYasu’s before getting my own place and would go to New York with Uru-san(of Kukunochi Distribution) and Akira Ishizawa (5Boro pro). It wasn’teven like I’d be invited. I was just an annoying little kid. Now,putting myself in their shoes, I wish I was more careful. They actuallydid get pretty pissed. I just wasn’t as respectful as I should’ve been. Alot of shit went down.
Now that you mention it, the first time we met was at that art show. I was working there on Mune’s invite (Munekazu Kitajima), and when we met, you were just like “Let’s goskate!” without even saying hi. I thought you were a fucking brat. Like,“Nah dude, I gotta work…”
Yeah, that was when I was like18 or 19. I wasn’t really into art shows and all I wanted to do wasskate. I couldn’t help it. Even if I was introduced to someone I’d actlike I didn’t know who they were. I was just some young, piece of shitkid who judged people only on their skating. I was so full of it. Sorryabout that. But now I ride for Color Communications! I owe you one…(laughs)
Ollie hippie jump.
I do remember when you were younger, even when you’d make a trick, you’dbe so stubborn about redoing it until you made one that you weresatisfied with.
Yeah. Even if it was a make, if I moved alittle weird or wasn’t exactly how I was imagining it, I’d want to do itover and over until it was right. There were a lot of times where the
filmers would have to tell me it was fine to get me to stop.
So you’ve changed since then? Why?
I used to have really high standards and wanted to land everythingabsolutely perfectly, so I never wanted to use anything I got because Iwasn’t hyped on it, but now I’ve come to look at it more as my ownunique style and feel like I understand my skating now more than ever.Or at least I feel like I’m not adding any false steez to my tricks orwhatever. In any case, before I wasn’t really expressing myself in mytricks. I was just imitating the skaters I admired I think.
It feels like you’ve got a diverse bag of tricks. Is that something you’re aware of when you’re skating?
Yeah, I try to stay conscious of having a wide variety. Like so I can skateeverything. I think the ability to adapt is really sought after instreet skating. I used to not skate ramps at all, but after I met Deshi,we’d roll together and there’d be times when we go to these spots whereit’s nothing but super steep ramps. You’ve really got no choice but tryand skate it when you’re put in a situation like that. That’s all thereis anyways. It’s like, we came all the way out here on our day off soeven if I’m not good at it, I’m still gonna try. That’s how I learned toskate transition.
How’d you film for your Night Prowler part?
Sunday sessions dude. We had a set crew to just go out and skate every Sunday,and then Katsumi (Minami) who filmed it all just compiled it into onevideo and that was Night Prowler. Wadapp, Katsumi, Deshi, Akira(Imamura), all those dudes. I was skating and filming other days too,but that was my first full part that got out into the world. I thinkthat was big for getting my name out in Japan. I don’t think anyonereally knew who I was before that, so it was pretty huge that Katsumiwas hooking me up.
How long has it been since you got on Traffic? And why Traffic?
About 4 or 5 years now. Rich (Adler) recommended me to Ricky, and I got anemail directly from Ricky afterwards, and then Habuchin at Bigwing(distributor for Traffic in Japan) contacted me too. At the time, I wasriding for enjoi but I didn’t have any contacts with them in the States,so I thought there could be more a chance for progression at Traffic. Ihit them up and let them know I was trying to have a relationship withthe brand in which I’d be able to make moves together with them. Since Igot on, I’ve gone to Philly and the Sabotage crew put me in TrafficReport.
I think there’s an image out there of you as a guy who’s able to balanceskating as a sponsored rider and working a full time job to make aliving, but isn’t that a rough gig?
Well the costs of living alone just on rent and food…if you don’t have any money, youcan’t live at all, right? Since we can’t really make a living offskateboarding alone, it kind of makes you have to balance the two. Butit’s not really a problem for me. I just skate all night after workuntil I go to sleep, and then skate like mad on Saturday and Sunday. Iactually think I’m skating way more than if I just had some part timejob and wasn’t being serious. It can be tough, but I think I actuallylike it. Maybe I just don’t mind the pain and exhaustion. Or maybe Ijust love skateboarding.
Yeah, somehow or other you’re always making moves and out filming, huh. You don’t ever think like “ah, I’ll take today off.”?
Probably not too much. One of the things I always want to do most is go out andfilm. Aren’t the most fun times when you’re doing something you’re mostpassionate about? Like it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Generally,I’m always going on my own schedule at my own leisure so there’s never asense that I don’t want to do it. Like even if I know that I’mdefinitely not skating that day, I’ll be thinking about what I’m goingto do instead whether it’s just chilling at home or drawing orsomething. Then the next day I know I’m definitely gonna be skating,even if I do get tired and am not really feeling going out to skate, Iknow I’ve already decided I’m going to so that’s what I prioritize. Aslong as it’s not pouring rain or I’ve got a cold or something, I’mgenerally out skating. Once you start thinking like “Ah I can go out andskate any other time,” it makes you not want to go out and get itanymore, and I’m not down with that.
Speaking of which, you do do a lot of illustration and design when you’re not skating. Iknew you were an artist but what was it that brought it out of you?
I was just showing a bunch of people my work, and Chomesu contacted meand asked me to a little exhibit in this little one room gallery inEbisu. Everyone showed up for it and I guess it just got out from therethat I was illustrating and designing. After that I got to do someexhibitions in BEAMS and Greenroom, and did a split exhibit with Oristaand live paintings and stuff like that. Toshikazu Nozaka helped me get alot of exhibitions going in Hokkaido and all over the place too.
Does the urge to skate feel the same as the urge to illustrate or design? Or is it completely different?
Yeah, it’s different. I’d say the urge to skate is more about wanting to moveor enjoy the act of riding and controlling your board, but the urge todraw comes from having a good idea in my head and giving it form, orfocusing my energy into making something.
In terms of illustrating or designing, is there anything new you’ve got on the horizon?
I’d like to keep doing more exhibits and shows. And it’d be rad if I canget some work as an illustrator or designer. Like designing apparel orboards myself. Or someday have my own brand or something. A lot of theolder guys I look up to are doing exactly that so that’s been a biginfluence on me so I’d love to be able to make some money off skatingand graphics. I know it’s a tough gig, but it’s something I enjoy soit’s worth it to me.
You want your own pro model?
Yeah, it’d be rad to get a pro model but I’m not obsessing about it. When itcomes to how I’d like to be as a skater, I’d feel much stronger aboutputting out videos and photos that are on point. Getting good work outthere on the regular is something I’d rather put my focus on. But yeah,it would be sick to get a pro deck. I think I would actually be superhyped on that after all (laughs).
Anything you’re working on currently?
Well in terms of my artwork, I’m working on a collab magazine project withBen Gore using his photographs and my illustrations. I’ve already got abunch of illustrations done for it and it’s coming along real well soI’m looking forward to it coming out. I’m also working on a littlewelcome video for Prize Fighter NY, then I’ve also got a ColorCommunications video and a Colin Read video coming down the pipe. I’vegot a lot of faith in Colin’s creativity and he always puts out radstuff, so that’s kind of what I’m focusing on at the moment. I thinkit’ll be out by the end of the year. Don’t miss it!
Then to wrap this up, anything you want to say to the young kids trying to make moves in skating?
Don’t worry about other people and do what it is that you like doing. That’sthe most important thing. It’s not really about following trends. Havefaith in what you believe to be your best and just try to expressyourself. And I think that applies to anything. Not just skateboarding.That’s what’s most important.
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