Tony Alva

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Skateboard legend Tony Alva, one of the original Z-Boys, created an entirely new way of skating that reflected his rebellious nature and his song choices speak to his punk rock sensibilities – from Black Flag and Sex Pistols to The Clash.  He also shows his softer side with a track from Sade. Tony continues developing new technology and merchandise to advance the sport he loves.  
For More:

1.) Spanish Bombs- The Clash
2.) Submission- Sex Pistols
3.) Black Coffee- Black Flag
4.) Me And The Devil- Gil Scott- Heron
5.) In Another Time- Sade


Liza Richardson: Hi, I’m Liza Richardson from KCRW, and I’m here with Tony Alva, one of the most influential skateboarders of all time and we will be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ project. So, Tony — what did you bring for us today?

Tony Alva: I’m a skateboarder, you know, have been a surfer for a long time, but I’ve also been a punk rock musician for half of my life, which is really cool. It’s something that’s priceless and it’s gotten better.

LR: You were in the “Scoundrels” in the ‘80s, right?

TA: Yeah. I’ve played in quite a few different —

LR: …and now you’re in a new band…

TA: Yeah — “GFP”. But The Clash, they’re very influential on our band. They’re very influential on me. And the song is “Spanish Bombs.” And it’s unbelievable if you listen to “The Clash” -- they were just so far ahead of their time. Plus, there’s so much reggae influence when it comes to that band.
It’s so layered and so simple, but it’s so effective. Just so much power — in not only the title of the song, but just the lyrics and the rhythm. You know, the rhythm of the song is the BOMB.

1theclash.jpgSong: The Clash — Spanish Bombs

TA: Well, as far as punk rock music goes and skateboarding, you know all the things that we’ve ever done here even in California, we’re connected to that punk rock sound because of the fact that we’re all totally so anarchistic and we’ve always rebelled against authority.  
Well, Joe Strummer never really lost that part of his voice -- when it came to the music, his lifestyle, the way that he lived his life from the beginning to the end. I think he was very politically motivated, conscious lyrics which go with the reggae theme. But you know, rebellious. We’re rebellious. Skateboarders are rebellious.  
And I’ve claimed sometimes that we were punk rock before punk rock. It’s a pretty heavy claim, but at the same time, The Clash and all of those bands, when I first heard them, it was just like, I felt an affinity and an identity to them, immediately.  
But the number one thing is that The Clash -- there’s never going to be another band like that in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Never.  

LR: That’s “Spanish Bombs”. It’s by The Clash. It’s from “London Calling”, the choice of our guest DJ, Tony Alva. What’s next?

TA: The Sex Pistols. You just cannot be more in your face, brash.  
But you know, look at how hard those guys burn up so bright for such a short time, but so influential on the world, not just punk rock music.  
The Sex Pistols, with the fashion, with attitude… There were a lot of dysfunctional kids and a lot of kids that were attracted to that music because of that lifestyle. They felt like they could identify and they felt like they had a place.  

1sexpistols.jpgSong: Sex Pistols - Submission

TA: More than anything, I related to the angst that The Sex Pistols had…just how primitive the music is, but how effective and how powerful, but also just what Johnny sang. I mean, Johnny Rotten was a spokesperson for a lost generation. I still, underneath it all, am a punk rocker to the core, and when I hear this song, this Sex Pistols song, I go right back to when I first heard the song, being a young kid that just loves punk rock music.  

LR: So, this is “Submission”. It’s by The Sex Pistols, the choice of our guest DJ, Tony Alva.

LR: What else did you bring?

TA: The Clash and Black Flag, those are two bands that symbolize a lot of attitude, so I picked Black Flag.  
These guys are 100% L.A. 100% American. There is a sound that comes from Greg Ginn’s guitar that has never ever been duplicated and never ever will be. He’s just a genius. The song I picked is “Black Coffee” because it just represents the insanity of, like, having too much caffeine and it’s just so Henry, too.  
Henry’s signature in Black Flag was straight out in your face, intense…the message was not just drilled into your brain, it was basically smashed into your face.
And when he says, you know, “drinking black coffee,” you feel like you’ve had too much coffee.  
Don’t drink it before you snowboard or surf, because it dilates everything in your body. People think it warms you up — it doesn’t. You get cold faster. That’s all there is to it.  
And Black Flag — quintessential American punk rock band. The best.

1blackflag.jpgSong: Black Flag — Black Coffee

LR: So, that’s “Black Coffee”. It’s from “Slip it In” by Black Flag and it is the choice of our guest DJ, Tony Alva. Tony, what’s next?

TA: “Me and the Devil” by Gil Scott Herron. “Me and the Devil” is straight up. You can hear exactly what he’s saying, ‘cause first thing in the morning, he’s talking about that dark side of our personality, the demons that we walk with, being a man to begin with, how he kind of vents a lot of his feelings into a release by having a woman in his life.  
There are some pretty heavy messages in the song. Just to hear that title, you know, “Me and the Devil”, walking side by side. I really related to it right away.
I know that he probably, like myself, has had to deal with a lot of demons and had to deal with a lot of things on a personal level. In a way, which was so weird cause you would think a song like that would make you feel dark, it gave me a touch of serenity and a touch of equanimity because I just thought, you know, you’ve been there. You don’t have to stay there.
What we do, in our life, you know, obviously having a spiritual path in life, for myself, I let the devil do his thing and then I reach out to a higher power and that’s something that’s really worked for me in the past.

LR: The choice of our guest DJ, Tony Alva. “Me and the Devil” is the tune from “I’m New Here” which is the latest from Gil Scott Heron.

1gilscottheron.jpgSong: Gil Scott Heron – Me and the Devil

LR: What’s your last song?  

TA: This one track is more of a heartfelt thing, than anything. It’s just a really nice song to listen to and just really get into and relax. It’s called “In Another Time” from Sade’s new record. The music starts, and it has a bit of a little lead, an intro, and you’re just waiting, and then all of a sudden, her voice just comes in. It’s very angelic. She just comes in out of nowhere. 

1sade.jpgSong: Sade - In Another Time

LR: So that’s “In Another Time”. It’s from “Soldier of Love”. It’s the latest from Sade, the choice of our guest DJ, Tony Alva. Tony — thank you so much. That was really awesome and generous of you to come by and talk so passionately about all your favorite tunes.

TA: Well, it’s my pleasure, and you know, we’ve known each other quite a while and it’s really great that we share a lot of common interests, but it’s all about the music. I love music. There’s nothing in my life that gives me more enjoyment and a feeling of life than just hearing good music. I could go on forever — this is just five songs, but they’re five special songs, so I’m really glad I could share them with you.

LR: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to