Garden State Skate: Christian Thatcher

Who was Christian Thatcher and what did he do?

J: Christian Thatcher was 30 years old. He was born on November 29, 1979 in Germany. He was a skateboard artist, among many other things. He was the Art Director of Sacrifice Skateboards and a professional skateboarder. He was the creator of the zine called Street Theatre. He was an illustrator and graphic designer for many companies such as 3rd Lair Skateboards, Roots, Ben Davis, DA, Blonde and Sacrifice Skateboards. He did a album cover/design for the band Useless Wooden Toys and a board graphic for the Gaslight Anthem. He also has a canvas Spread in Thasher issue #320 . He moved from Germany to Texas and then moved to New Jersey where he grew up and lived. Thatch was a mentor, inspiration, and great friend to many. He is a Legend of the skateboarding community.
M: ...and best dude ever.

Why did he do what he did?

J: Thatch was born a talented person. He did whatever he wanted. Art and Skateboarding were a huge part of his life.
M: Skateboarding was Chris’s passion––first time I ever met him was back in the mid 90’s at the Hillsborough Cost Cutters. There was a huge session happening there, and here comes this little tiny kid with a huge Mohawk and a Subhuman’s T-Shirt. I swear I still think the dude came out of the womb with a punker bracelet and a skateboard. To get to the point though, Chris liked to live in the moment in the most philosophical sense of the word… most skaters know that it’s pretty easy to achieve a zen-like state when you’re really focused on skateboarding. I think the truth is that Chris loved that. He also understood that punk rock, graffiti, and skateboarding all paralleled in that they were anti-corporate, anti-consumer. Two ideas that were built down into the core of Chris’s personal constitution… He knew skateboard art was all of those things wrapped up into one. He thought society was fucked… art, most especially skateboard art is a great forum for social commentary. He felt like he was speaking to people in a way that they would actually listen.

How would he work when he produced his art?

J: He was very happy and focused when he made his art. With coffee and a cigarette. Ink and brush. Listening to punk rawk.
M: He worked nervously in the predawn hours on copious amounts of coffee and/or beer.

What is his background?

J: “I was born in Germany and lived there until I was seven. Then my family moved to Dallas, Texas. In ‘91 my dad had to transfer jobs again and we moved to New Jersey. I repped it there from 6th grade to right before I turned 21.” -Christian Thatcher MN Skateboarder interview. He lived in Minnesota and was a manager/skateboard instructor at 3rd Lair Skate Park and shop. He always wanted to go to California so he took a bus and stayed there where he landed his first gallery art show. He eventually ventured back to Jersey to be with his friends. He repped Jersey.
M: Chris was born and lived in Germany. In 1986 he moved to Texas. As a kid in first grade who couldn’t speak a lick of English he was an outcast, until he discovered skateboarding. He recalled the feeling over a decade later in his self-published zine “Street Theater.” He says, “Skateboarding and the culture it has given me has shaped me into who I am today. It has taught me to look at life from a different angle and given me a positive outlet to release aggression and a way to express my creativity and individuality.” He goes on to say…”When I skate my mind id at perfect peace, not a thought enters my head. I am at perfect harmony with my surrounding environment.” Shortly after that he moved to Jersey, where he learned about graffiti and punk rock. Chris like to read a lot… books about spiritual discovery, Steppenwolf, Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Siddhartha… stuff like that. You mix up all those things I think you got Chris in a nutshell.

What was integral to his work or that of an artist?

J: Passion is what Christian really had to his work. I think passion is what drives every artist.
M: That’s a tough question. For Chris it was his character. I mean there was a lot of his personal politics in his work… like I said before, I think that was kind of the appeal for him. Skateboarding has this sort of “inmates running the asylum” type of mentality… that kind of freedom breeds the best kind of artistic expression.

Any great story we wouldn’t believe is true, but it is?

J: Thatch and his friends obtained a megaphone. They would go around to fast food chains and prank the unsuspected drive-thru window operator. Most were recorded and put on a tape he made called Verbal Harassment which was given out as a limited edition cassette with an issue of Street Theatre.
M: (Expanding on Jupiter’s answer) God, there are so many great ones. I guess the very best is documented to DVD. Right around the time Chris got his license he came into possession of a megaphone. He also had this extremely loud VW Rabbit and he used to drive around randomly harrassing people. It became like an art to him… trying to come up with great lines to use on people. Sometimes we would be driving to the skate spot and he’d come out of nowhere with the megaphone… stick it out the window and be like “ADMIT IT YOU LIVE IN A RICH COMMUNITY!!... SUCK MY OIL!!” and then peel out. He used to hit up the fast food drive thrus too. Those were the best.

In your opinion, what role does the artist play in society, and how did Chris position himself according to that role or set of ideals?

J: My opinion on an artist’s role in society is that of visual pleasure. Christian was very modest about how talented he was. He told me he liked to be mysterious. To where I felt like he liked to be behind the scenes, and have the people surrounding his art not know that he was in the same room.
M: Well, If an artist has a job, I guess it’s to illustrate his or her own perception of reality. Chris did this in every aspect of his life, even when he was totally serious. He really was the character. You could say he was an artist in the complete sense.
Which artists or creators did he find or return to for inspiration?

J: Jim Phillips, Pus Head & R. Crumb were some of his favorites.
M: Well, definitely graffiti artists everywhere: Jim Phillips, VC Johnson, Todd Bratrud, Gonz, Andy Howell, Mark Mckee… definitely skateboard artists. Music was an inspirartion for his art too.

What is art? Why is it important especially for skateboarding?

J: Art is a visual design. Skateboarding is an art. Everything is connected in some metaphysical way. I believe Christian’s art is important to skateboarding.
M: Art is just an expression of the way you feel, your perception of things… through your own reality tunnel. Skateboarders are a rare breed in terms of personality… I feel like skateboarders or at least people who relate to skateboarding are the only ones who can communicate what skateboarders feel through art. In terms of its importance… it’s just like anything. Everything needs an asthetic.

How long did he skate and where?

J: He shredded for 22 years of his life. He started skateboarding when he was 8 years old. He always was a ripper anywhere and everywhere he went.
M: Chris discovered skateboarding in 1986 and never quit. He was always passionate about the way it made him feel. He always rode Sacrifice Skateboards, not just because he designed them and got them for free… but because he loved the company, and what they represented. He was a ripper.

Did he ride his own boards exclusively or did he have a favorite brand or deck?

J: He skated his own decks mostly or whatever company was sponsoring him with decks. His favorite and most proud of board he did was the last board he made for Sacrifice which he called The Morbid Visions Deck. Sacrifice por Vida.

Do you/he have a favorite or most inspirational place (in Jersey)?

J: Nature in general... Whereever we went together sparked inspiration. Whether it be just skating the streets together or making art on the streets. Salem + Jupiter. 78 ditch secret skate spot.
M: I never really asked Chris what his favorite place in Jersey was. I can say that collectively our favorite skate spot was the “DIME” building on Davidson Ave.right near Bound Brook. It was this grimy little parking garage with a few parking curbs. The thing about it was the security guy used to leave the closet open for us. We used to have all kinds of shit in there like flat bars, boxes. We used to build crazy stuff to skate with whatever was available. There was a desk in there for a while and a bunch of doors… we built like a jump ramp up to a hubba. Some epics sessions went down, but the place got too blown up and kids started leaving stuff out… they eventually gated it. We skated there every day for years. It was a time for creativity for the both of us… it changed the way I skated forever too. I still love temporary skatespots the most these days. In Jersey, the land of cheese grater pavement and no spots, it’s a good skill to have. Build your own spot!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given or could give?

J: Unlimited possibilities, so do as much as you can. The meaning to life is a life worth meaning.
M: “We’re compromising millions by conditions we accept.”

Professionally / artistically, what are, were his goals?

J: To Christian everyday was an opportunity to create or do something positive. I think his goal was to make the best life for himself while doing the things he loved. He accomplished so much and still will forever. He was true to everything he did.
M: Chris just wanted to do the things he loved to do, without someone telling how and when to do it. He didn’t want his moral values to be based on monetary gains, which is what he saw and despised in society. He wanted to create and shred.

Where can you see more of his artwork?

What wouldn’t he do without?
M: A skateboard, a pencil, and his cassette player.

Any Thanks?
J: Rene Morales owner of Sacrifice Skateboards, Chris Nieratko owner of NJ skate shop, Our Families, Anita Su, Maxwell Mateikis, 3rd Lair, Creeper & Ronnie, Skateboarding, Friends, Christian, The Loft, Shannon Perez, Zachary Koenig, 5boro, krooked, REAL, Artisanal Tattoo and all supporters.
M: The Ditch Gods