Daniel Lutheran's "Propeller" Interview

By Michael Burnett

What were you good at as a kid before skateboarding?
Soccer, smiling, art, writing. In eighth grade I won a poetry contest in New Mexico. My whole poem was about idolizing Jamie Thomas.

What did you totally suck at?
Math, dancing good, overcoming ego.

Are you naturally a lazy person or a hard-working person?
Hard working with a side of leisure awareness.

What is something you’ve worked the hardest on?
Myself on a day to day and my career. I like to think I work hard on each particular passion I have.

What is the laziest you’ve ever been?
Good question. After every out-of-country trip I think I can max out some serious couch hours. In college I simply decided against writing my English final. I think that had to do with being lazy.

You’ve told me that you didn’t really understand there was a world of skateboarding outside your town when you were a kid. When did you realize there was such a thing as pros and videos and all that?
I can’t remember exactly. I know tail end of seventh grade I started to get a grasp of people being pro or above the norm. I never connected professional with money; it always meant skill. Maybe skill and free stuff. My first video was The End so I knew there was something wild out there, but what it was I just couldn’t be sure.

Did finding out about that stuff change the way you thought about skateboarding?
No. I really think I was on a different wavelength—like kinda square, just falling in love with skateboarding in my own way. My idea was to have my older brothers’ approval, have fun and maybe get some trim.

Monster kinked ledge gets back 50-50’d in the rain with nary a second thought  /  Photo: Burnett

Did getting sponsored become a goal for you?
Yeah, for sure. I had my eyes set on getting on the shop—three boards a month!

What is your relationship with Albuquerque’s Rocky Norton, the world’s strongest skater?
Rocky and I go way back. We were really close for some time during my college years. He helped me in a lot of ways. We had a cool, creative friendship and I rode for his board brand. He opened my eyes to bigger horizons in certain ways. Very creative. Very passionate. A lot of dreams were alive at that time and I never had a dull moment hanging with him.

Was he a mentor to you? Did you guys have a falling out?
In certain ways he mentored me for sure. He was someone who knew more than the local scenario. He had seen a bit of the culture, gotten a taste of some of it. He has such a creative mindset as well, that I always admired and grew from. I always had respect for him. He would show me the older ways. The guys all accepted me because Rocky accepted me. As for falling out, we worked together a little bit with his board brand—this was just before anything happened for me. I’m in college and skating for his brand. Eventually we started to miscommunicate some. My sights were always limitless. I wasn’t sure of what I searched for, but I was searching non stop. That, I think, hit Rocky hard because I continued on my path and that meant separating from his brand, guidance and ideas. To this day I love talking to Rocky. He is rare and has real perspectives. He’s an amazing artist and craftsman. Looking forward to our next crossing of paths.

Recently there was a murder at the skate park in Albuquerque. Is it a rough town? Did you ever have any gnarly run-ins with the police or bad people as a kid?
I heard about that. So sad, so lame. I believe it is what one makes it. Like any decent-sized city there is good and bad. It can be a rough place. Rough areas exist. Overall I don’t feel the negative overshadows the positive. When we were in middle school, me, Travis Waller and Al Price got our first taste of APD. We found our elementary gym door pried open one weekend and proceeded to session the smooth basketball court and anything inside it. A minute later I was on the ground with a gun pointed at me soon followed by cuffs and a call to dad. Dad was bummed, and double bummed the cop pointed his gun at three little kids.

What is special about Albuquerque in general and in skateboarding?
The lay of the land is beyond special. That goes for both in general and skateboarding. It’s a delicate balance between the seasons, land and people. It’s special for skateboarding because of its intricate waterways and layout from the mountain to the city.

You seem to have a very open relationship with your parents. Was it always like this?
I don’t ever recall a time being distant from my parents, but my life and relationship changed with them in my teens. We became closer. I feel like they had real-life woes on their plate to deal with; serious stuff. That gave me the freedom to either prove to them I was solid or add to their scenario. In that time I developed what’s now a close friendship with each of them. I grew myself and with them. I never felt uncool for loving my parents. I never felt lame for showing how much I care. I still don’t. It has to do with the mindset they’ve always chosen to raise me with—very respectful, open, encouraging, humble people—always positive through hell and back. Going through all we have gone through together has sifted through all the bullshit in the relationship between us and broke down all the walls. It’s showed a lot of what life’s about; a lot of what my priorities should be. I will never be able to repay my parents for their blessings until I’m a parent.

Describe a time when you really disappointed them.
I can recall multiple times I did things I’m not proud of. Serious lame stuff. As I’m learning the ways of life I’ve crossed many lines, when I was younger especially. I disappointed them enough to know I didn’t like that feeling at all. A funny one I can tell you is my parents were disappointed when they saw a KOTR group photo in the mag semi-recently. I was flipping the camera off and my dad said something, like, “Oh, come on! You think you’re cool or something? You’re Mr. Cool now? How lame.” True story. He’s always right. A smile is way stronger than a middle finger.

Mr. Cool, massive pop shove-it  /  Photo: Burnett

Do they know you smoke weed and bang all kinds of strange beaver?
Yes, they know I have a smoking habit and know most all about my love life—most being the key word. I will say they are no advocate of any smoking. They know it’s bad for the health which makes it lame. As for strange beaver, everybody loves strange beaver.

Did you have girlfriends over to the house to spend the night when you were at home staying with your parents? Are there any kinds of house rules associated with this kind of thing?
Yes, I did. Absolutely, but maybe atypical house rules. Respect was the first rule. I don’t feel I ever intentionally showed disrespect in those instances, so my parents always showed me the same courtesy. Also, its good to know I’m the third son of four. Mom and Dad had bigger fish to fry than a girlfriend spending the night. That was always a blessing about being younger.

Speaking of house rules, didn’t you get evicted from your first house in Long Beach?
Yeah. This was our first go at California on our own—Provost, my brother Andrew and myself. We got an apartment in Long Beach. Drew came straight out of high school from Albuquerque, Collin from his parent’s place and me from Leo’s where he was letting me stay. We cooked that place. Two-bedroom-third-story baby bachelor pad. Such good times but the life going on in the apartments around us was different than our version of reality. Eventually we were in trouble three times a week; everything from noise to spitting to Marquis climbing the building to the school teacher next door telling our dad he can’t teach his class in certain clothes because they reek from our weed cloud. Safe to say our neighbors weren’t feeling us. I learned a lot. I learned all about my solitude necessities, California girls, how this skate life is a different existence in a lot of aspects to other lives, how I function in California and a work ethic. It was good and bad.

Your younger brother is an actor who got his start stunt doubling for a girl in a skateboard movie, right? And then he took her to the prom?
Yeah, true, true. He started stunt doubling in New Mexico for a movie girl. Her name’s Anna Sophia—super nice girl and family. He got the call just to come down for this movie, they needed a skateboarder. When he got there he ended up killing it. They all loved him. That alone blossomed his career and changed his path. Then after being on set together they got close and Andrew ended up taking her to his junior prom or something like that. Smooth young man. Always has been!

Have you ever been exposed to his Hollywood nightlife? Didn’t you have a run-in with Demi Moore?
Hardly. I’ve tagged along to a few things. I wouldn’t say, “exposed,” but I’ve seen some insanity. I went to an after party with Drew and had a mild run-in with Demi. I wish it wasn’t mild! Standard celebrity story—nothing happens but you’re there. She was feeling no pain at an after party and gave me some eyes across the room; gave me some hair love. I seized up and shy-boyed out. While she was leaving the room she stumbled and caught herself by my lap. True story. I didn’t realize ‘till later on I was hitting on Die Hard’s baby momma.

How old is too old for you, lady wise?
That’s a boundary I’ve yet to set for myself.

You got a steady girlfriend now, right? What did she do to make you want to go steady?
She’s a masterpiece. She puts a lot into me and puts up with even more. Her head is in the right place. Humble beauty. Intelligent. Big heart. Big butt. Nature girl. Super freak.

Frontside 180 fakie 50-50  /  Photo: Burnett

Do you see yourself getting married someday?
I haven’t planned anything out but I will be a married man one day.

You have two other brothers we never hear about. What’s your relationship with them like?
Chris and Ryan. They are the greatest. I learned everything from them. Chris still skates some but both of them got me and Andrew into it initially. They live and work in Albuquerque. Both have serious girls and a good day to day. I’m proud of them. They paved the way in my life in major ways, good and bad, leaders of the boys. We are very close. We’ve been through a lot together, lows and all the highs. I can’t wait to see ‘em both for this premier. Life’s best with all of us together doing good. Their support for me is unlike any other.

Where do you get your positive mental attitude?
I think I get it from things that inspire me, people I wanna be like and things I wanna accomplish. Attitudes I admire, too. My parents, Chuck and Sharon, for sure. I get it from being aware of how great this ride we are on is.

Do you ever have a negative mental attitude? If so, what sets that off?
Yes, for sure. All sorts of things—over-thinking things. I get down on myself for insecurities and losing sight of how great this ride we are on is; losing a personal battle. Society, sometimes. Females.

The way you got on Vans flow is an interesting story. Please tell it.
I was on C1rca and Toy Machine flow, met some of the Tum Yeto crew and got invited to live with Johnny Layton. I’m not even sure if I had made it to his place yet or whatever, but Jamie Hart ends up leaving me a message wanting me to show the Vans team around Albuquerque on a trip. I remember he said something about Rowley and Johnny, like they put in the good word. I was floored. Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be going on a C1rca trip a day after this Vans trip’s going to end. So I take ‘em up on the offer and fly back home with AVE, Keegan, TNT, Andrew Allen and some other people. Throughout being the tour guide and cruising with the team, Jamie was always cool to me. He had said a few nice things in his Jamie way, but knew I was on C1rca flow. Eventually, midway or something, me, him and my brother are kicking it at a spot and he says “What’s C1rca doing for ya?” The rest is history. Had to call and quit. I remember that being really tough but Mario Miller and I are still boys!

How did your relationship grow with this illustrious shoe brand to now being a featured pro in their new video?
Slowly through traveling and hard work this has become a family for me. They reciprocate the support and heart that I have for them. I’ve always felt accepted and blessed for finding a home like this.

What was the closest you came to blowing it? Did you ever smoke weed in Steve Van Doren’s motorhome?
No, not quite. Sure I’ve made some mistakes in my situation. I consider myself a work in progress, every day. I will say me and Van Doren are good buds—just got off the phone with him. He’s doing a private Albuquerque premier. Steve’s all time.

Find grind leave it behind. Dan Lu 50-50s a hazardous dog leg drop and floats the stack  /  Photo: Rhino

When did you find out you were going to actually get on the team? And be in the Vans video? What pushed you from flow to pro?
I think I found out a few months after the Toy Machine video came out. There was a grey area in between there. I think I got on around three months later or something. As for the video, officially knowing I was included in the Vans video was around mid-September. We went on a final big team trip throughout the Midwest. My knee had just healed and it was a solidifying time for who’s having parts and the end of filming. It was a mix of things: hard work, good people guiding me, epic managers, my desires, awareness, positive mindsets and a little luck.

So let’s talk about Propeller. You said this was the hardest challenge of your life.
Well, one of them. It’s been this big dream of mine forever—since I wanted to be doing skateboarding—to do a master project with a masterlensman under a master company. That’s always been one of my goals. That being said, I think I set my expectations high. Knowing this is something special and striving to make it something I’m proud of has its weight on my mind—something creative and expressive. It’s a big deal to me. My body’s been through a lot; my minds been through a lot. This is my first take at it. This is the big leagues. I want it to reflect the heart I’ve put into all this.

What have been some of the highest points and lowest points working on this project?
Getting to know and collaborate with Greg has been one of the biggest highlights for me. Achieving things as a posse, fighting ultimate battles triumphantly, traveling to these amazing places with friends who’ve become family, growing, becoming men—those are high points. Lowest points have been my injuries amidst the thick of trips and filming. I ruined my ankle, healed for a few months then ruined my knee on Father’s day. There were definitely times in this I was hanging on by a thread, whether it was my mental well being or physically.

How much input did you have in terms of what your part looks like? Did you get to pick your song? Did you get to pick the tricks?
I feel I had a lot of input. Greg has always been good with me; open minded in communicating a common goal for this part. He’s creative and artistic, which I prefer, so we had fun working in that aspect. I got to pick my song as well as pick the tricks with his guidance. Creatively he had certain visions, so it helped to pick and choose through the excess. I can’t take any credit for the layout or anything, though. He’s a master. He went to battle with me for every trick. One of the hardest-working people I have met.

What’s your prediction for first part and last part?
I predict AVE will have first part and Crockett will have last part.

Where do you hope to end up?
Right in there with the big dogs.

Which trick are you most proud of?
I think I have a little extra affection for the pop-shove-it hippy jump.

Frontside bluntslide transfer, mojo rising. Keep smilin’ Dan Lu  /  Photo: Burnett

Let’s talk about your teammates. What makes Gilbert Crockett tick? He’s a pretty interesting dude, right?
Oh yeah, Gil is insane. Super interesting. I’m unsure what makes him tick. Do you think he knows what makes him tick? He has something special, something rare, something not quite describable.

What lessons, if any, have you learned from Gilbert?
Quality over quantity. Follow your heart. Stay bat-shit crazy.

What about Chima Ferguson? What’s his approach?
Chima is next level. Smooth operator. Same thing—super interesting, but with Chima I think he knows what makes him tick and has it dialed. He has his methods down. Limited madness and room for error. He functions out of confidence and quality. I have the utmost respect for both him and Gilbert.

You also get to be in this video with some pretty big legends. What’s it like getting to skate with and being in the same project as people like AVE, Geoff Rowley and Tony Trujillo?
It’s insane! It sets the bar high, in my mind. Those are three dudes I have looked up to and respected in skating forever. Those are some of the influences that exposed me to what I know skateboarding as. It’s humbling, it’s inspiring and it’s fun. I’m having a good time being part of something with those guys. I can close my eyes and picture watching ‘em as a kid or open them and watch ‘em now.

Tell the story about having to have the Geoff Rowley shoes as a kid.
That’s pretty funny. I had to have those. My older friend Ryan got a pair and came back to the neighborhood, like,”These are out. Can you believe it?” So I begged my mom for a new pair of shoes. Eventually she gave in and we went to the store to get ‘em. By the time I got ‘em there was only a size seven. I was an eight. I jammed my foot in there without a second thought, lied to myself and mom and walked out in the Rowleys, hyped and toes cramped.

Have you ever been called out for an open-toed footwear violation?
I believe I have. I’ve been called on many gear violations. I don’t bind myself too much when it comes to what I like to wear. I think Rowley shut me down one trip. I was rocking heavy leisure gear, Birkenstocks included, and he sent in the nah-nah. Maybe a few other bros, too. I laugh in the comfort of them as we speak.

AVE can be pretty serious. Was he intimidating at first?
Oh, for sure. Still is some. It’s wild. He’s fascinating. I admire him. He’s a full-spectrum human. He’s so damn funny, too, when he talks. This one trip he spit fire the whole time. See, when I think of him I think of his humor before him being intimidating. He’s a passionate person. I’ve really learned a lot from AVE, from a distance, I suppose. I would like to talk to him more.

Premier ditchmanship, switch frontside flip off the kicker  /  Photo: Rhino

Who do you think is the most-gifted skater on the team?
Crazy-ass Crockett.

Who is the most hard-working?
Chima’s work ethic is pretty advanced. AVE probably as well.

How good is Kyle Walker?
Out of ten? Ten.

They put Rowan on the cover of the video. What makes Rowan special?
I think it’s pinnacle. Rowan is an extraordinary human, which translates through his skating. He’s channelled a wavelength, way-creative and way-up high—a way of life. I hope he stays the course.

You are pretty fashion forward. But Andrew Allen is taking you out. How would you describe his fashion sense?
Cool, I’m not exactly sure what fashion forward means but it’s an honor to get in the AA fashion category. Doesn’t he hang with Dylan? Fool’s got the advantage.

Has Vans let you designed anything yet? What about those pants with elastic at the bottom?
I’ve designed a couple shoe color-ways and some apparel. Nothing signature. I want to so bad. That’s a dream of mine. Those elastic boys are popping. They are releasing a more-upgraded version soon. You’ll love ‘em. The apparel is on fire over there right now. I’m excited about that!

If you could design your own shoe and Vans clothing collection, what would it look like?
Such a good question. I would really research it and design it Crockett style—OCD extraordinaire. Take all my influences and mix ‘em into something special. Then clothes-wise I’d continually feed off the stuff I like in my everyday life. Seems people are fine with it. Have that variety pack suitable for any vibe, any human.

Nosegrind tail grab in ALBQ  /  Photo: Rhino

I know you’re not into that old-guy shit very much, but have you had any nice exposure to some of the big legends on the team? Like Tony Alva, Christian Hosoi and Steve Caballero? What are those dudes like?
I’m into it, I’m just not so knowledgeable. I’ve had some cool times traveling with those guys. True legends, big personalities. Once out in Albuquerque I joined Steve Van Doren and Alva at a local event they put on every year. Got to know Alva a bit. He was rad. Super positive. He told me, “Back in the day when me and my squad would come through here and hit all the ditches, they’d call it Alvaquerque!” Also I’ve seen Hosoi calm as can be while our van was getting massacred one night in Brazil, whole thing shaking, people getting hit, product stolen. Surrounded. Like Michael Jackson leaving court. I’m next to Hosoi, wide-eyed and petrified and he gives his signature laugh and happily says, “Man, you shoulda seen it in the ‘80s!”

Let’s talk about popular skate culture. Are you jealous of all of Nyjah’s ladies?
No, sir, but I’d play my cards differently. I hope he discovers art girls before its too late.

Have you ever got amongst it over there?
No, sir. I wish.

Where do you rank him as a skater? Great? Or the greatest?
Somewhere in the top 300.

What about Shane O’Neill? Do you like his style?
Shane seems awesome. I don’t know him personally, but from what I’ve read I like him and his mentality. I liked his interview a lot. Good words. I like his skating and style. Biggie back lip!

What about the Street League. Are you excited for skateboarding to go to the Olympics?
Not a bad thing to say about either of those. I wish I could get amongst things like that. It’s an insane level of talent those dudes are working with. Not to mention it looks insanely fun; the whole situation. Excited indeed. Get on an Olympic trip—count me in. “Yes, excuse me, um, where are the foreign female gymnasts rooming?”

What events do you think they should have?
High ollie for sure, over stacked boards, like, Olympic glass boards; judge approved. Old school meets Olympics. That and longest hippy jump. Maybe like long-rail-over-water, too. See who can really lock those knees.

Unlike his neighbor’s turtleneck, this BS NBS shove-it reeks of technical progression, not Mexican dirt weed  /  Photo: Burnett

Do you think anyone will be able to pass the drug test?
Have you heard of Lance Armstrong?

If called by your country, would you be ready to compete for the USA even if that meant giving up your beloved doobies?
Without a doubt, no questions asked. Ready, willing and able, sir.

What do you think of this low-impact movement, like skating curbs and pole jams and general hotdogging around the streets?
I think there is room for all skateboarding so long as you’re being yourself. Also, I’ve been out learning slappies. Once I did I kind of felt what everyone’s talking about.

Should dudes be able to get big-time shoe sponsors without doing progressive or dangerous stunts?
I think that goes back to work ethic and there being room for all types of skateboarding. If someone is working hard for their sponsors in whatever realm they exist, earning their spot, for sure. From there it’s up to the companies how they wanna formulate their look and the bar they set.

How important is physical attractiveness to being a sponsored skater these days?
Shoot, good question. It seems to be pretty prevalent right now, but that’s something you’d have to ask the big-league dogs.

What’s the most overrated thing in pro skateboarding?
Skate fame.

I know you love Nick Trapasso and Sinner’s company LE. Would they be the first people you call if you got kicked off Toy?
No, I wouldn’t. They probably wouldn’t even mess with me, but I’m a big fan. Extend it!

Euro pagoda ollie  /  Photo: Burnett

What is your favorite thing to skate just for a good time?
A good wide ass!

Tell us about Jon Dickson. What makes that guy tick?
Jobs has mojo. He’s a next-level human being. One of my favorites. Caveman meets the ‘60s groove meets Midwest. He’s a real-deal dude. Solid wingman. Old-soul captain. Marching to his own drum. His skating, though—guy can do anything he pleases. He has to pretend to look sketchy sometimes ‘cause it’s too easy for him.

Who would you say are the top-three raddest dudes on the streets right now?
Figgy, Matt Bennett and Chad Muska.

How do you get yourself to jump on the hand grenade? How do you get yourself to do the big stunts?
Sometimes there’s this mojo you can find inside you, at the top of whatever it is. It takes a second but you can feel your window when she comes. Other times it’s trial and error and those are typically wilder times. Each one’s a process.

You ever had a buddy suck on another buddy’s girlfriend’s toes while she was asleep?
Yes. Not the best idea, but I’m no saint.

Have you ever had a skate photographer put a photo on the cover that you haven’t landed yet? How did that make you feel?
Yeah. That’s a type of motivation I had never felt before. It wasn’t a surprise to me, so I knew what I was taking on. Funky mindset for a bit, like I was pulling the wool over some eyes. I lost some sleep over it. Certain anxieties. Other skaters who have been there, they know what I’m talking about. What if? What if? All the what ifs can really funk with my mind. First thing Dustin told me after seeing that cover was, like “Nice cover, mate! Don’t worry. I’ve had a few!” Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing and I’m thankful those guys show me love and support! Happy ending.

You’ve said that embarrassment is a choice. Please explain.
Our friend Luke taught me that. It seems to be a way of life, like, unteaching yourself embarrassment; deciding on your own terms what you’ll create as an insecurity rather than let society. Very powerful stuff.

Grinding a rail this gnar would make anyone good at smiling. Double-axle PMA into the bank  /  Photo: Rhino

We’ve seen a lot of promising skaters geek it over the years. What advice would you give to an up-and-comer not to blow it?
Work hard at focusing on your idea of the dream. You might find it different or ever changing, but staying focused on what you first sought out as the idea. Also, stay above the sheep. Stay above the negativity. You’ll go as far as you decide.

You come across as a very nice young man. What’s the most scumbag thing you’ve ever done?
Thank you. Damn. Most scumbag thing I’ve ever done? Gonna have to keep that one for the grave, brother.

What’s the hardest apology you’ve ever had to make?
I remember a really hard one. I took my best friend’s mini Tech Deck when we were kids. He looked all over for it with his mom after I left. She called my house and asked directly and I think I lied over the phone. Couldn’t come clean; just a total loser. Eventually I had to come clean or it surfaced somehow. I like to think I had to clear my conscience and came forward, but I’d have to ask Nik. Anyways, I called and wrote a letter and apologized in person. Devastating. That was the first time I really learned forgiveness outside my family. We’re best friends to this day. Hell yeah, Nikki.

What is your five-year plan? Where do you want to be at 30? What do you want to be doing? Do you worry about the future?
Thirty seems far off. I’d like to accomplish skateboarding goals from here until then. Life goals, too. I have a lot in my mind, a lot to do on Earth: be a good man to a good lady, acquire knowledge, be a good friend, travel much more, purchase a home, hang with my family, be a good human, stay ever learning. No, I don’t worry about my future.

What are your plans for the night of the big Vans’ video premiere?
Well, all my family is flying out and my woman and friends so I plan to celebrate and attempt to take it all in. Celebrate with the Vans family, too. Feel some dreams come true. See what happens from there. I plan to smile a lot.

What question or questions do you wish I had asked you?
I just want to thank you for working really hard with me. And Cody and Greg for working really hard with me, too. Getting to be a part of this life means more to me than y’all know. It’s cool to care.

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