Interview: Sean Peterson
Norman Woods is one original cat. The first time I met Norman was with the homie Bill. Norman was this little Hollywood High Kid and at the time was one of the only brothas I knew that rocked the Rock-N-Roll look. He was a quite kid, or at least while we were shooting…. That was a long time ago. Can’t get the motha fuckah to shut up now, but he’s still got that drive to skate. He calls me almost everyday and is currently one of the reason’s I stay stoked on even shooting skate photos. Norman’s got a very distinct look and ever since I’ve known him, he’s looked that way. So I wanted to find out how and why he became a rock-n-roll brother in world saturated with conformity.
So you’re known as a Hollywood High guy, but where exactly are you from?
I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and moved to Los Angeles when my folks split up. I was like six years old.
Where’s your mother from?
She’s from Milwaukee Wisconsin. But I think her family moved to Los Angeles when she was a baby and still lives here. She moved to Nebraska with my dad when she was 21.
Where’s your father from?
He’s from Omaha. But my grandpa was a pretty big Jazz musician, so they moved around a lot. That’s how he and my mother met in Los Angeles.
What did he do for a living?
He played Jazz. Whenever I was with him he’d take me to gigs and I’d hang out with all these jazz guys and the crazy women that hung around them. It was a trip.
What was your father like growing up? Did he ever tell you any everlasting gems of personal growth?
He was awesome, but he went back and forth between Omaha and Denver all the time. My step dad was the one who told me things most of the time. He always gave me weird advice, though. When I was like twelve he told me never to give a girl the whole dick. Stuff like that.
What was one of your first Childhood memories?
Flying to LA from Omaha and my mom telling me we were going to Disneyland the whole flight. I was pretty stoked. Then I remember meeting all these relatives for the first time.
How do you think their influences have contributed to your style?
Well, I think they influenced me as a person, but I get my style from whatever I’m into at the time. I just try to look smooth. I’m kind of weird about that stuff. Maybe my dad’s influence is coming out now, because I’ve been fixated with suits lately.
When did you first step on a skateboard?
The first time ever I was 8 years old. But I ate shit and scratched my face, so I never even touched one again until I was 13.
Why did you step on a skateboard?
NW: I would see the kids in my neighborhood rolling around causing trouble. There was one kid in particular named Travis. He had a full punk kit with a big Mohawk and shit. He would make me punk tapes because my parents though rock music was the reason white kids were so crazy and wouldn’t buy them for me. It was so different from everything else I saw kids doing, so I wanted to skate. Punk music and skateboarding were one and the same to me at that time.
Did you graduate from Hollywood High?
No. I went to Birmingham High School in the valley, and graduated from an independent study program.
One day would you like your portrait to be on the Auditorium next to Laurence Fishburn?
I don’t want to see a big picture of my face that often.
Back when Hollywood was the shit, what where some of the famous tricks you where there for, aside form the Nollie FS Board slide.
I saw some good stuff. I remember Darrell Stanton nollie back lipping the twelve and Bjorn Johnston nollie 180 switch crooking it. Matt Ball’s front feeble. Random kids killing it all the time, too.
When did you get into music?
I’ve always been into music. My mom and dad split when I was young and my pops would always send me mix tapes with his letters. They’d have Jazz like Duke Ellington and Count Bassie, and crazy rap like Blowfly and old Too $hort stuff. I liked that stuff a lot so my cousin and I would make our own rap tapes when we were six and seven. But once I was like eleven or twelve I started to get into Rock n Roll. It just seemed more interesting to me.
Why did you get into music?
Music is the way I understand things. Everything I do I’ve always used certain rhythms to make easier. It’s too hard to explain. Even when I skate I use rhythm and timing to learn tricks. That’s just who I am.
Like many skateboarders, you let music get in the way of your skateboarding for a few years, why is that?
I had been hanging with some of my punk friends from back in the day and learning guitar a lot. It was new and exciting. Plus there are always chicks around music scenes. That was enough to occupy my mind for a while.
Now you’re fully back on your board and in the streets getting it done. What happened that re-sparked your dedication to shredding?
I was over being in a band. It’s difficult to rely on so many people just to play a show. So much goes wrong all the time. Plus, I’d started handgun’ with the crew again and skating a little bit. My girlfriend encouraged me to skate a lot, too. I think my friends told her that I used to be really good at it. Some how I was better on my board after not skating for a couple years than I had been when I stopped.
Who are a few of your favorite skateboarders of all time and why?
I like people who have good styles as well as skills. I’ve always been into Geoff Rowley and Andrew Reynolds cause they make the gnarliest shit look effortless. Melcher is always fun to watch cause he’s does his own thing.
So who are some of your favorite skateboarders to skate with today and why?
I always have fun with any of the HHK homes like Marcus and Marcelas, Juice, Scotty, Joe Dirt (RIP). Also Ghost and Daniel Knapp are dope to shred with. Lately I’ve been skating with Andrew Cannon too, he always brings the stress level down.
Photos: Sean Peterson, Ayako Tanaka, Oleh Smchko, and Ruben Anders.