This third pick of a character that shaped my childhood, and in a roundabout way of which they’re pleasantly oblivious landed me in the “career” where I currently dwell came about through unpleasant circumstances; the death of Sinisa Eglia last week, the man who made Airwalk good prior to its crumble into the cut-price phantom zone.
I loved Airwalk for a few years – even the colourways were influential but in line with Syd Field’s ‘Screenplay’ which espouses a dated formula, his paradigm rings true for this fallen brand –in the beginning, it’s 1986, and Bill Mann starts a shoe company. Plot Point 1 sees Sinisa recruited from a skatepark. Plot Point 2 sees the brand flourish, implementing the young man’s ideas before the company changes tact after Mann leaves. The ending is the shoes entering the mid ’90s as the official shoe of ‘The Next Karate Kid’… Someone needs to make an Airwalk documentary.
I never got to meet Sinisa, but Mr. Wood at Sneaker Freaker confirmed that he was quite a character, and his interview for the magazine remains a fascinating cautionary tale for startups everywhere, shoe-orientated or otherwise.
But I’m not here to talk sneakers. You can read about that shit elsewhere. Pondering Airwalk, I remembered that musician and skater Chuck Treece has a brief sponsorship deal with them. Are you starting to comprehend my thought processes? No? Okay then. I’ll continue with this steer in direction toward the career of Mr. Treece. Who else could session on a half-pipe as well as in the studio with Billy Joel (I believe he’s on bass during ‘River Of Dreams’, though it could be a remix), King Britt and Schooly D? Only Chuck – one of Philly’s finest.
The year is 1988 – a bunch of town-trapped kids spend a summer watching the same segment of Powell’s ‘Public Domain’ video, eating Mars Bars and drinking Bass shandy. The footage of Steve Saiz, Ray Barbee, Eric Snderson and a fresh-faced Chet Thomas sends us out attempting the same street level antics, resulting in failed kickflips aplenty, and on returning to school, hearing that some older pupils had damaged a particularly expensive piece of camera equipment, attempting to ollie it in tribute to the same sequence. I don’t blame Barbee (a frequent musical collaborator for Chuck). The blame lays squarely at the feet of McRad – Treece’s group, with him on guitar and occasional vocals, whose testosterone-powered, catchy chords on ‘Weakness’ soundtracked these months of misbehaviour, whether amateurishly taped from the telly, or loudly hummed while rolling down those smalltown streets.
Powell’s ‘Ban This’, which proved equally powerful year later used McRad’s ‘LA 4’ and Thrasher’s ‘Savannah Slamma’ from ’87 also used their music. It just worked. Much skate rock, as promoted by Thrasher, hasn’t stood the test of time at all – it’s kind of in the name, unless it evokes memories so vivid, you can taste the steel taste of your blood when face met pavement – much like our Summer of ’88. ‘Weakness’ and McRad’s work in general, but primarily 1987’s ‘Absence Of Sanity’ LP are sturdier and more proficient than, say, Drunk Injuns.
Treece also briefly played guitar for NYHC legends Underdog, and replaced ex-Cro Mag (and latterly, Fun Lovin’ Criminals) drummer Mackie in the slightly fragmented ’89 Bad Brains ‘Quickness’ lineup. I also noticed him in a 2006 Bad Brains lineup alongside Chino from the Deftones too, and later on, rocking the Bad Brains approved Barack t-shirt.
His ’91 one LP Voicebox side project with Dan O’Mahony is less essential, but still worth investigating. I attribute the power of Treece and McRad to Philadelphia’s ability to take something, whether it’s graffiti, hip-hop or hardcore (see also; the seminal Philly group YDI, who, like many, stumbled when it came to making a good LP – the compilation tracks were great nonetheless). As much as I’m loathed to incur the topic of race, when it comes to the trinity of great contemporary African-American rock n’ rollers reeled out, time and time again (altogether now…) Fishbone, In Living Color and Bad Brains, Chuck deserves his shine too as a bonafide legend.