Mike Torres gives us an insight into Nights & Weekends ahead of its release this weekend and we delve into the lasting impression of his first Winterclash experience, geek out on frame logistics, and talk tactics when it comes to making blading videos.

Mike Torres has been responsible for countless quality online videos over the past decade, including notable sections for USD riders Justin Brasco and Tim Adams, but very few people will be aware of his extensive back catalogue of releases unless they have taken the time to read the description panel under each video on YouTube. However, in recent years, he has earned himself some serious kudos as a top tier blading videographer thanks to the release of Church of Leon, and it’s follow-up Wizard of Wall Street, with Canadian Wizard frames mastermind Leon Basin. Last year he released One For The Road, a New York City based scene video that unwittingly became a contender for full-length blading video of the year in many people’s hearts and minds. If you have somehow managed to miss it so far, you can watch the full video online for free.

Well, it’s only 12 months on and Torres is gracing us with another full-length video in the form of Nights & Weekends. Having already been fortunate enough to watch a rough draft, we can assure you there is more incredible blading on display from Grant Hazelton, Justin Brasco, Augusto Castillo, Torres himself and a plethora of New York City locals. This latest project definitely improves upon its predecessor and offers a greater insight into just how much effort the skaters put into lacing some of their tricks. However, the high level of filming, editing, and inspired music choices remain in place and with this release we begin to see a signature style emerging in Torres’ work. It is obvious this is an individual who takes a lot of time to think about the best way to portray blading in the way he sees it and his execution of various ideas within this release shows that he has great judgment when it comes to condensing hours of footage into a cohesive viewing experience.

We sat down with Torres on two occasions; one before watching Nights & Weekends and one after. Now that the video is complete, it looks like we can expect to see him working on various projects in the near future. Given the alarmingly fast rate we consume and discard blading media at this moment in time, it’s always encouraging to know we have another high quality content producer we can rely on to deliver entertainment and inspiration.

Skitching.

Wheel Scene: I noticed you had your first Winterclash experience earlier this year. How was it
Mike Torres: Oh, man, Winterclash blew my mind. I swear I’ve been riding sort of a rollerblading high ever since that weekend.

It definitely reaffirms your faith in the sport when you see that many people and they are all so hyped about blading. What impression did it leave on you?
Well, you just nailed the impression it had on me. Seeing that many people so hyped on blading just left me speechless. It was way different for me personally than any of the events I’ve been to in the US and I think a big part of it was because I didn’t really know anyone. Seeing all these people that I didn’t know existed, from countries all over the world, juiced on all the same things I was juiced on… I don’t know, it was like the missing piece of the blade puzzle for me, personally, and it’s really stuck with me ever since I’ve been back. Everything has just felt so connected lately, it’s hard to explain.

I know what you mean. If you just look online, you get a negative impression of blading. When you go to events, especially in Europe, people are so passionate about it and it definitely gives you a great feeling. What were some other highlights from your trip?
Oh, man, so many… A big one was meeting people who also rode Wizard frames and sharing our stories of how using the frames has impacted our skating for the better. It was really awesome to hear stories of how some of the videos I’ve made with Leon inspired people to try them out, or maybe just look at skating in a slightly different way. That was a cool feeling and was definitely part of this feeling of connectivity I’m currently experiencing.

It must feel rewarding when people compliment your work like that.
An amazing moment was when I just sat down to Arlo’s screening of What Do You Believe In? and sitting behind me I saw a dude with some weird black thing on his face. When I turned towards him I saw that it was a cheap, thick, black tuft of hair next to his ear – fake sideburns. And before I could even ask myself why the hell he was wearing these stupid looking sideburns, I noticed the green Senate hoodie, thick black Senate beanie, fake Pawn wrist guards, and carpenter jeans. Then, in the next second, I widened my focus a bit to see the guy next to him was wearing the exact same thing…then the guy next to him. Then I realised the entire row behind me was FILLED WITH 1996 ARLO EISENBERGS. That shit was brilliant. Props to those guys and their attention to detail.

Those guys do it every year. They have done Richie and Montre in the past. I think it’s their crew’s tradition
Yeah, it dawned on me in the next second. Haha! This all took place in like a five-second period of time! Haha! I was sitting next to some guys that were from the same city as that crew and they said they didn’t even know who that crew was going to dress as this year. I guess they keep that information in the vault until Winterclash.

Pillar transfer

You told me before this interview you were doing some editing for the Wizard IG. Do you mean the Wizard Skating account that doesn’t have any content yet? When is the first video going to drop?!
Your guess is good as mine… Honestly! But I’m hoping before the end of the month

Is this your Instagram project or are other people running it too? I mean, is it in any way connected to Leon and the Wizard Frames?
Oh, I’m just helping out with the video content on that page, but I’m not running it. That will be the official IG of the Wizard skating brand, so there are a few of us behind it.

Ah, okay. I’ve got you now. Is it just Leon that runs the brand?
It’s Leon’s company, but the branding behind what will be launching soon was a team effort – from my understanding. I should say that I am in no way directly affiliated with the Wizard brand. I’m just helping them out with some content for the page.

Sounds interesting. What do you think of the Flat frames?
It was cool to see them in action at Winterclash. I think their potential is undeniable. Pottier was going bigger and faster than everyone there, and had complete control while he was doing it.

It definitely seems like he has found a way to bridge more of a gap between “wizard” and “aggressive” with the inclusion of an H-block and his undeniable ability to utilise those frames.
Yeah, it’s a step in the right direction, but I could see that concept getting taken further with different wheel rockering, longer frame lengths, etc. It’s exciting to see where all these companies are taking their new products. It’s such a weird time to be skating.

Haha! Explain!
Well, I won’t get too deep into it since I’m not a super skate-tech gear head sorta guy, and since I haven’t really analysed the frame length/rocker of the Flat frames, but I did hold them for a bit at Winterclash and I was shocked at how short they actually were. By aggressive skate frame standards, I guess you could say they were long, but I’m almost positive they were shorter than the large K2 frames that are out now and those only fit 60mm wheels. I thought for sure these frames would be at least that long and maybe even a little longer. Beyond that, I’m seeing the frame companies that are embracing wheel rockering seem to be doing it with a banana rocker versus a natural rocker, which is what is on the Wizard Frames. I find the natural rocker to be more subtle, stable, and appropriate for street skating. But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

Tree ride

Banana rocker? You mean like Oysi frames?
And Flat frames. The two middle wheels are 2-4mm lower than the outside wheels. The natural rocker, to my understanding, puts the third wheel lowest, then a gradual climb up to the front wheel, and the fourth wheel is raised a bit as well. I have no idea what the actual specs of any of those frames are though, just the basic concept. I hope this isn’t going too nerdy here! Haha!

We are definitely straying into Nerd Ville here! Okay, back on topic. You have been working on a new video, Nights & Weekends, and it’s just about to be released. The name is a bit of a giveaway, but what is the idea behind it?
We are all working adults who dedicate a shocking amount of our free time to make these videos.

Hahaha! That is a good summary. Is it the same crew as One For The Road?
Yep, same crew, plus some new faces. All NYC. Well, I should say, all SHOT in NYC. I don’t want to upset any New Yorkers Let me try that again, haha! Yep, same crew, plus some new faces. All shot in NYC.

They do get quite defensive about that! We interviewed Joey Lunger and all I said was that New York City, despite having what appears to be a huge scene, hasn’t produced an internationally renowned blader since Austin Paz – and people got pissed!
I’m not touching that one with a ten-foot pole, man. I gotta live and skate here.

Haha! Wise move. So what makes this release different from One For The Road?
We went into this video with the intention of making the video. The same cannot be said about OFTR – that video kinda just happened. Additionally, Augusto filmed on his own all year with a handful of other guys in the area, then we combined all our footage to make this video. This video is truly a collaboration between Augusto and I. Other than that, it’s almost 100% different spots from the last video.

Does this mean the guys technically went harder for this release because they knew it was a project from the beginning and not just gathering clips for the sake of it?
Most of us aren’t doing it to prove anything about our skating, so whatever feels right while we’re skating is typically what we’ll film. But maybe, if anything, it inspired us to skate smarter, to fill out a complete and well-rounded section. But the most important thing we went harder doing is filming. We actually made sure to get appropriate coverage this time, to set the scenes and tell the stories.

So the aim was to create something more cohesive and thought out than last time?
Yes, for sure.

Are you using new equipment? I noticed you brandishing a Canon in a recent photo.
I use a Canon C100MK2 for some stuff, but mostly just use my HPX170.

How does that work for combining 1080p and 720p footage?
I just scale the 1080 stuff down, and try to get the colour somewhat close. I don’t think people will mind.

I always wondered how Dom West juggled using Sony A7 footage, which is obviously very crisp, and the footage from his HPX. Then again, if you are working on a 720p timeline and it mostly ends up on YouTube in that format anyway, it probably doesn’t make much difference
Dom West pulls it off very nicely. He is a pro for sure.

Toe jam

I know you work in media when you are not blading and filming but what do you do exactly?
I was working in an advertising agency, but now I’m transitioning into freelancing full-time as a camera operator, gimbal operator, and editor. It’s slowly picking up steam, so I’m still casting the net wide to see what sticks.

Nice. It must be pretty scary going freelance though and giving up things like holiday pay etc. I almost forgot, when are you gonna drag Tim Adams down to the Big Apple and force him to film a new section?!
Oh, man… You’d have to ask him. He seems to have really shifted his focus onto his career lately, so blading has taken a bit of a back burner I think. He’s really been killing it at his job, and he still skates all the time, so I’m happy for him. The second he says he wants to film a new part in NYC, I’ll be ready with open arms.

Which videos that have had the biggest influence on you in the last few years?
Vancouver boys make the best videos. Team Harry Abel/Scott Blackmore make the best edits. Sean Keane, Collin Martin, and Bobi Spassov have the most entertaining IG pages, with a big shout to this Korean dude whose IG handle is @jkabbath. But I’m sure if you were to ask me that in a month my answer would be 100% different! Haha!

As someone who is still making full length videos, have you enjoyed any full lengths in recent years?
There has been so much amazing content the past few years, it’s hard to say. Watchdagame and Delfon Dio both come to mind right away. Buddy Tour SE7EN – and I’m not just saying that because I was a part of it. Michael Kraft’s style of editing and directing is incredibly unique and entertaining. Both Bacemint VOD’s were mind-blowing, and now that I think of it I’m gonna go rewatch one of those as soon as we’re done with this interview. And how sick was Bars?! I’m sure I’m forgetting something obvious. Oh, right, Champagne. An absolutely perfect skate film. This is too hard.

Disaster fishbrain bonk

I have just finished watching Nights & Weekends and I just have one question: Why do Justin Brasco and Grant Hazelton look like they could form part of the dreamiest boy band ever?
Because they could.

They could be called Muscles and Locks.
Next question.

Damn, killed that quick.
Haha!

Fucking ruining my day right here! The transitions between sections in Nights & Weekends is a lot more fluid than One For The Road. Was the intention to create a more seamless production this time?
This video is certainly more seamless than OFTR because we started the year with the intentions to make a follow up video, which was not the case with OFTR. Going into it from the start, I knew I wanted it to have sort of a mixtape feel and be a little less formal than OFTR. It’s actually not quite as free form as I was originally intending, but I think it ended up in a good middle ground.

I also notice, unlike last time, you included more falls and really emphasised how hard a couple of the guys worked for their tricks. Why did you choose to do that this time round?
Yeah, that was part of the free form nature of what I was going for. I remember being a kid and watching VG14 for the first time, and watching Louie Zamora lacing a perfect line but fuck up the last trick and they just left it in! Hahaha! I don’t know why that always stuck with me, but it had such a raw energy to it, and I feel like I’ve been drawn to videos with that kind of tone & energy ever since.

Who has your favourite trick in the video and why?
The obvious answer is probably either going to be Grant’s AO Unity or Brasco’s true makio. When you see him land that royale to 270 into the bank, and you hear our reactions…our minds were blown. That was the first time, to our knowledge, that someone had hit that rail into the bank, and to do it as well as he did was just a bonus. But then he started playing around with the spot, and started doing the AO unity as a goof. None of us could even comprehend the fact that he landed that trick. It was absolutely unreal to witness in person. With Brasco’s true makio, all of the attempts you see in the video took place in April of 2017, on our first skate session of the year, which is mindblowing in itself that he basically blew the winter dust off his skates and went right into what ended up being one of the craziest tricks of his section. He probably tried it 20-30 times and he ended up fucking himself up as a result, and had to call it that day. We found ourselves back at that spot in June or July, and we kind of joked about him giving it another go. To our surprise, he was into the idea and he ended up landing in four or five tries, which explains why we freak out the way we do! Haha!

It seems like you guys have managed to find a lot of new terrain in New York City. Do you stumble across a lot of new spots on your missions? Would it be possible to film exclusively in one Borough and get a video’s worth of footage? Or even just one area – like Williamsburg?
Jesus Christ, yes! One borough for sure, one neighbourhood would be a little tough. I’d say 90% of this video is filmed in Brooklyn and yet we’ve probably barely scraped 25% of the borough. And don’t get me started on the Bronx – so many spots up there!

And new spots?
I guess the answer is yes…or maybe it’s just what we consider a spot has evolved so much over the years that some of the items have always been there, just never paid attention to…if that makes any sense.

I get you. Now that the video is done, what’s next?!
I’m going to focus on a few smaller projects this year instead of one long one. There will be more frequent content for people to consume as a result.

Photos by Ryan Loewy.

Watch more videos of Mike Torres HERE.

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