Clive Dixon's "The Road Scholar" Interview

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For a few years Clive Dixon has been another friendly face in the van. We knew he ripped, but with Saturdays he seems to have his sights set on something much bigger. And to find out he’s been writing a book this whole time, too? What else don’t we know about Birdhouse’s thrill seeking hair model?

Let’s hear about your acting career. I don’t know much about all of this. What were you doing yesterday?
Well, it’s not much of career, but I’m definitely trying to make some of that easy money out here in California. Commercials are an easy way to get that. Yesterday was actually kind of hard. I had to look at a blank phone and pretend like I was excited about something I was looking at. Making all kinds of different expressions at a blank phone is pretty hard. Being happy, sad or laughing, all that stuff sounds easy when you just say it, but doing it is pretty difficult. I wish I’d practiced for it! I have a talent agent who’s one of my girlfriend’s good friends. I did a commercial last year in New York where they shut down Chelsea Park. I did this other Gatorade commercial back in the day when we lived in the RV. That was pretty dope.

That shit was sick! We had that Gatorade money, baby! Everyone in the RV was hyped on that. Gas money for days, the glory days!
Dude, the RV was amazing.

How much cash do you get for a commercial?
It all depends. I got, like, 25 grand for that Gatorade one!

 

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Upstairs: fear and potential disaster. Downstairs: knocked out teeth or high fives. Clive rolls the dice and wins big on a 24-stair Smith Photo: Zaslavsky

 

How does that work?
You get royalties. In that one I did a trick and I spoke, so I got more. I did a bigspin over a rail in LA that’s been pretty heavily skated. It’s the one by the Mexican-food joint. The one I did in New York never came out, but if it does I’ll probably make some pretty good money.

Are you in any commercials now that we should be on the lookout for?
No, not really. There is a Verizon thing but you’d never know it’s me. It could be anybody.

Let’s talk about this book you are writing. Anytime you’re not doing shit, you’re working on it.
I’ve finished writing it. I finished it at the beginning of the year. I’ve just been editing it for the last six months. It’s getting to the point where there’s not much left to do. Then, I don’t know—whatever steps I take from here. I’ve got to figure that out. It took a year to write. It’s about the experience I had after my dad passed away. I started writing it about the same time we started filming for the video.

What do you need to figure out, how to get it published?
Well, I’m finishing editing it and I’m always adding stuff that comes to mind as I go: points to elaborate on or things to be more descriptive about. But it’s not like I have a degree in literature or anything, so I know I need to get it to a real editor at some point. Pretty much any major thing that goes to print will go through an editor, right?


Clive 2 Seq 750pxHe’s had this one on lock for awhile. Biggie front lip in Eugene Sequence: Broach

Yeah, for sure.
So I’ve got to figure out how to do that. So if I pursue a publisher they will probably have an editor. Or I’ll just pay an editor to go through it. I guess I just need to figure that part out.

You’ve got to have some thoughts on it. What do you think you’re going to do?
Well, my good friend wrote a script that Netflix bought. He has an agent that helped him, so I might talk to him about it and maybe try and get in contact with his agent. I know Tony has written a couple books, so I’d like to talk to him about it and see if he has any ins. I’m sure that would be a good way to start.

Were you a good kid in high school?
I was. I paid attention. That’s all you really need to do in high school to get good grades. I graduated with honors and all that stuff but all I did was pay attention. I will say if I went back to school now I’d take it more seriously. I think now I have a greater lust for knowledge and learning than I did when I was a kid. I wish I would of realized it at a younger age.


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Did you go to college, or it was just high school, right?
Yeah, just high school. My parents were pretty bummed. I had a scholarship and prepaid tuition and everything and I decided to let it all burn down.

You can always go back after this is all over. Is that what you’re thinking?
I don’t really know what I’m going to do. Guess you’ve got to weigh the odds at some point, right?


Clive 3 750pxFlorida hurricane joke here Photo: Muller

So Mills said the book is about our trips. Is that right?
No, it’s not about the trips from the video at all. I wrote it when we were first going on all the trips but I wrote it from notes that I had from my experiences the previous year. On trips there would be nights when people would be going out but I’d just hang back and work on my computer and put it all together. The first year of filming the video is when I was just putting the content together. Not even just the creative side, I was just trying to get all my notes down and in order. Then after that I spent more time molding into what I wanted it to say.


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So you just spent the downtime on trips sorting it all out and putting it together. So what’s it all about? Does it start with an acid trip? Is it all Fear and Loathing style?
No, not quite Fear and Loathing. It’s heavy and a lot of people find it hard to talk about death. It’s about my experiences after my dad died. I found out a lot of people don’t know how to talk about it or haven’t experienced it, even though it’s something that every single person in the world will have to deal with. So my dad passed at the end of 2014. I started taking notes about a month after he was gone. All these kind of weird things happened. I may seem crazy for talking about this but I was kind of visited by some sort of—whatever you think it is—spiritual or subconscious figure at the beginning of 2015 that was a super strange phenomena. After that I really started recording the things in my life. It ended up being one of the most wild years of my life so far. I went to Dubai; I went to Europe with Birdhouse; I had to live in Florida because I had to take care of my dad’s estate. I’m the only one who was there to do it. He didn’t really have any other family. So I was just there living in Florida going on these crazy trips and not really living that well. I was living a pretty destructive lifestyle, not really realizing that it was me mourning the passing of my father. I did have a really wild acid trip at the end of the year in 2015 where my father visited me. I know that sounds crazy. It was one of those trips where you think it’s never going to end. I fucked up and took too much. I thought I was going to go crazy. I was seriously scared, fucked up and alone in my condo. Then my dad visited and walked me through it. Then when the sun came up I went down to the beach and got into the ocean. I had this epiphany or whatever that I’d been running away from dealing with it for a year. I’d just been trying to block it out and I was just mad at the whole situation. I came to and just realized that I couldn’t run from the fear anymore. I had to accept what happened and move on. I had to get my life back together and start pursuing my goals.

Wow. That’s amazing, man.
I wrote this little note that says, “Strength is just an accident arising from the hardships of your circumstance.” So maybe that’s the theme of 
the book.


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So the book’s been a healthy way to help you deal with all of this?
Yeah, exactly. Then after that morning on the beach—It was actually Christmas morning—I went back and started putting my notes together and started writing the book. It helped me deal with all of this so much. Like I said, it made me come to terms with why I was drinking so much and just made me realize I was being a sissy and not facing things. It forced me to remember all the goals and things that I wanted to accomplish. Just because my dad passed doesn’t mean I can put all of that on hold. I had to get back to it and start grinding again. His passing was a shock, too. No one saw it coming. He was older but he was healthy; he was traveling the world, like, every other month. He’d still work in the yard and all of that. So when he passed away I was on a trip and I got an email from his girlfriend that said she hadn’t talked to him in a few days and I immediately knew something wasn’t right. So I had my mom go get the key and check on him. She found him in the condo. He had a heart attack. When I came home I found out he had a heart condition that he never told me about. I think that’s what I was mad about that for a while. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t tell his son about something like that, but then I realized it was to protect me. He didn’t want me to worry. I also realized it was his life and he wanted me to be able to live my life.

That’s heavy. How did you think to write the book? Have you always been into writing?
I had a good teacher in high school, Mr. Hall, that turned me onto it. Even though it was a hard, it inspired me. He’d always push me and try to make me better. I always liked his class and was kind of into it. I didn’t really get into it until my dad passed and I needed to release some emotions. It started with little poems and then turned into this story that developed a beginning, middle and end.


Clive 5 750pxVigilante mini-mega. Frontside flip over two bars Photo: Broach

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Obviously Hunter S. Thompson. He’s sick. I like a lot of the beatnik writers: Tom Wolfe, Patti Smith and my favorite is Joseph Conrad. He wrote this book called Heart of Darkness that the movie Apocalypse Now was based on.

Do you think writing is something you’d want to do after skating is all over?
Yeah, doing this has been so awesome for me. I’ve put so much work into it and it’s been such a great outlet. I mean, I’ve spent almost two years working on it. I’m excited to try it out and see what happens. I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket or anything. I don’t think that this is the end all be all, but it’s definitely exciting.

Man, that’s amazing. All of it. Let’s get back to this vid. Are you using any clips from before we officially started filming?
Yeah, we both are, right? I have some tricks in the video that are older because we weren’t working on other projects at the time.


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Yeah, for sure I have some almost shaved-head clips in my part. So that’s at least two years old.
I have, like, seven different hairdos in the part!

Oh, hell yeah you do! You are a hair model in this part. Y’all need to watch out for that! Everyone is going to think you have a shared part. Aveda is going to be hitting you up after this video.
I gotta stay sponsored one way or another.

Yeah, let’s talk about getting sponsored. We are both from small towns and had to make it happen. Was it hard for you to get noticed?
I probably would have moved to New York if you and Jerome hadn’t got me on Birdhouse.

I’d known about you from our mutual friend, Jeff. Jeff was working for a clothing company and we’d been going on some trips or something?
No, there’s a big gap in there somewhere. Jeff was just a homie I was going to contests with at that time.

Oh yeah, I just seen footage of you through Jeff and I talked to Jerome and said, “We should put this dude on. He’s what we need right now. We should hook this dude up. I don’t know him very well, but he’s good homies with one of my friends,” so I knew it would be cool. Now he’s the dude he is now, an amazing hair model skating big-ass rails. His part is going to be tight.
Yeah, I didn’t even skate big rails until I moved out to California. Before that 20 stair, the biggest rail I skated was, like, a 12-stair rail. Florida isn’t really the capital of elevation!


Clive 6 Seq 750pxThe word slappy gets thrown around a lot these days, but this jammer to backside Smith is the real deal Sequence: Muller

Shit, now everyone from Florida is doing the craziest shit.
It’s all the parks they have now.

Yeah, and the Internet shows everyone what’s possible right away. No more delay in what kids see.
Yeah, like the Staples Center thing. I crooked it and then three days later the ETN guys did a show at that spot. I was so nervous someone was going to kickflip crook it! That would have sucked so bad!

It’s hard to save shit for a full-length video in Los Angeles. California is hard. If you are LA-based, everyone is hitting the same spots.
You think it’s good or bad that everyone’s letting good tricks out on Instagram now?

I don’t think it’s good or bad. It’s just the way shit is now and it’s going to keep going that way. It’s only going to get crazier and turn more online. It’s not going to revert back to the way some people want it to be. People who remember when paper was everything and things weren’t so instant need to just live with it. It’s never going to be like that again. It’s not good or bad, it just is, so get over it.
The Internet has made everyone better at skating.

Oh, hell yeah it has. It’s easy to be noticed now. At one point just getting noticed was a mission within itself. You had to get in enough with people just to start getting exposure. It’s almost good because it’s made everything even. There are a lot of skaters who are really good and really talented who I think should have blown up, but just never did and it’s only because they didn’t get in with the right people that could help them get out there. With the Internet and Instagram it’s so easy to get noticed and for companies to see people.
You think it’s easier to get noticed now?


Clive 7 750pxSideview of the hellacious cover spot. Going down! Photo: Burnett

I think it was hard for me. I don’t know about you.
I got lucky. I never did the thing of sending footage all over. I just had friends that hooked it up.

That’s sick! I grew up in a small town where no one skated, so you had to try and make it happen if you wanted it. No one knows anyone in the industry. We didn’t even have a skate shop, so for kids like that, Instagram and the web has changed the game. Obviously, wanting to turn pro someday was a dream for both of us. You’ve killed it for this video. Is this your time to go pro?
Can’t call it. I don’t even think I want that question in this thing!

Birdman, turn him pro! Is this the hardest you’ve skated for a video?
Yes. I’ve really made it a point to be smart and think about the spots and tricks that I wanted to get. I tried to make it a well-rounded part, think about what I want and what type of skating and spots. I’m really happy with it. I feel like I’m better at skating through filming this video. It’s been a huge learning experience, for sure.

Do you think it’s because you were trying to fill out a full part for once?
Yeah, I had bigger tricks that I wanted to get and I think I went about things smart. Like on trips, sometimes I’d know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, you know? I feel like I’ve figured out when to save it and when to go for it a little more now. Then for the big tricks I’d go practice over and over. Whatever, people can call it jock-ish, but say I wanted to Smith grind a rail, I’d go to the park over and over and Smith grind the skatepark rail. I’d go for like a week before and do it over and over then when I finally got to the spot I’d be able to do it.


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That’s not jock-ish; that’s just smart. Did filming this full-length part help you organize your skating in your head a little more?
I think with the part I felt like I had such a great opportunity and Tony was backing us. Tony gave us this big speech about how proud of us he was and how great the team works together. I just wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity and work my absolute hardest. They are investing so much in us there is no reason why I shouldn’t do the same and give 100 percent to them.

What’s the biggest perk about having Tony as a boss?
What was cool for the video is I heard of a spot in Northern California that I wanted to skate. We got to do a whole trip just so I could skate that one spot and get one trick. It’s that kind of stuff that makes it amazing. It was cool to be able to have those resources, for sure.


Clive 8 750pxOne step ahead of the Internet, Clive Dixon crooked grinds Staples like the—who’s that little rabbit? Anyway, like that guy. Keep going, Clive! Photo: Rhino

What was the gnarliest thing you saw on the trips?
Just the stamina of Jaws! He’s like the—who’s that little rabbit?

The Energizer Bunny?
Yeah, he’s the Energizer Bunny. He can’t stop. Every day is just hammers, hammers—and it’s fun to him.

So is this your breakout part?
I’d like to think so. I hope so. I worked pretty hard on it!

 

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Clive Dixon steps into the abyss—screaming 25-stair lipslide down some seriously heavy metal.     Photo: Burnett

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