Do I know much about Bruce? No. A cool guy? Seems that way. Been part of the scene for a while? For sure. In the game cuz he loves it? Hell yea. What does he do? All kinds of sweet stuff. Should I give a damn? Read the interview and decide for yourself!
C: Hey Bruce welcome, we will start with the basics. Name, age, location, occupation.
B: NAME - Bruce Rodela AKA: Rodzilla ,Juan Hector Smith, Sheki Larue the French Jew
Location- East Bay Northern California
1. Dad and Husband
2. Sales and Marketing Manager for ASF Distribution
3. Owner, Photographer, Team Manager, Marketing genius,
Snuggle Blogger, Spiritual Advisor, Joint Roller, Beer Buyer, Driver, Maid
and driving force behind Vertical Smile Skateboards
C: Give me a little bit of background with you and ASF/Vertical smile.
B: ASF came out of nowhere. I was just getting out of a real shitty business deal with some less than moral or intelligent business partners and was laying low looking for something good to sink my skills into. I just finished my morning bong rip (for medical reasons of course) and answered a job posting for the missing piece of a skateboard manufacturers puzzle. Steve, the overlord of ASF, got back to me and we discussed what we could do help each others incomplete lives and here we are 3 years later making those dreams come true.Those of you who don’t know ASF’s side of the skate industry we are the best choice in making those 7 ply shred sticks you step on everyday. Our wood fucking rules!
The idea of Vertical Smile started between a few years ago with my friend Keith Cochrane and myself when I was working at Think Skateboards .The basic idea is to have a home for skateboarders who don't really give a fuck about playing by the industry's narrow rules of engagement but deserve to be hooked up nonetheless. A place for guys you see murdering a spot one day and 5 years later you see them with the same shirt on and still killing it. The kind of dudes that just don't care about jumping through hoops for a free skateboard is what we are after. Our riders have attitude, moral, drug and social problems and instead of it being a deterrent for being sponsored I look at it as a big check in the plus column. It goes both ways though because I don’t care to be a big time skate photographer myself for the same reasons that the riders aren’t going for X Games gold. With Vertical Smile now everyone get boards, gets to travel, gets to film and take photos like everyone else but still be complete fuck ups. It’s pretty awesome actually. You can check a lot of the action out at www.thesnuggleblog.com.
While VS was never going to get of the ground at Think I now have the unfair advantage of a full state of the art wood shop behind VS and we are exploiting it. I can say with full confidence our wood is the best in the business but instead of trying milk larger margins at VS we will always pass the savings on to the hardcore skateboarder by offering a top deck at better prices. I also put all of my profits back into road trips and filming/ photo missions and beer. It’s a killer situation.
C: Photography is the shtick here so lets discuss that a bit. A brief background on how you got into photography.
B: I was wondering aimlessly through life on a drug fueled skate mission and luckily was asked one day what I was going to do with my life. You pay a little more attention to the question when it’s your future mother in law asking you so I blurted out the first thing I could think of- and that was photographer. I don’t give shit in my life much thought, I definitely act on impulses and first ideas, so I bought a camera from a drug dealer friend of mine and signed up for some photo classes the very next day. Luckily the little po dunk school I went to had incredible teachers and I ended up learning all the technical and artist aspects of photography one could hope for. My schooling for skate photography however came from my homey’s back in the day- dudes like Jacob Tillman , Bobby Wass, the Parente brothers, all the OG Think dudes like Paul Zuanich, Tim Mckenney, Jesse Paez and most importantly Phil Shao. It was just so easy to shoot those guys back then and it never felt like work. The tricks were made faster and smoother and they always let me re take the same shot over and over till I got it right. It was real fun back then, it was all new and my friends were the best skaters around- you can’t beat that ya know. So I started getting stuff published pretty fast –about 4 months after I picked up my camera I believe. The photo that got used was a small Thrasher AD of Joe Lopes for a small company out of Oakland by the name of Confusion Skateboards- I was hyped.. A little while after that I got a small photo of Phil in Slap then came the ads for Think and their various companies. I needed money though, skate photos didn’t pay shit, so I took a sales position at Think that Phil pushed for. I figured make some of that big sales money and work my way in deeper at the mags in my spare time. I started to string a few words together and began writing articles here and there for Slap, Strength, Heckler, Concussion and even one article for Thrasher. The articles sucked ass though for the most part, it just wasn’t working out being a full time rep and continuing to pursue the photo thing. That coupled with the fact that Phil got into a unfortunate accident that took his life. It was such a pleasure shooting him that everyone that came after with the exception of Jacob Tillman was just a second place finisher. I mean I kept it going for a while after his death but I was just going through the motions. Skating was changing big time too -photos got harder to get because of the difficulties of the moves, the guys I were shooting were getting younger and my responsibilities at Think got more intense. That and I just wasn’t skating enough and that can get you depressed as fuck. So shooting just wasn’t fun anymore so I made a conscious decision that I would start shooting photos again when I couldn’t skate at a certain level anymore and that’s where I am at now. I am finally at a point where I can say I am fucking ruined- I can barley walk down stairs at this point and if I want to other physical activities for the rest of my life I had to put myself on mellow mode on the board. Surprisingly though I am accepting my lot in life and enjoying taking photos way more than before.
C: I can remember first seeing your photography and being very impressed, do you shoot film or digital or both?
B: All of the stuff you are referring to is digital. I fucking love digital! I’m not one of those old film guys that waxes poetically about the good old days of film. They both serve a purpose and they both fucking rule. I am not taking sides in either formats battle of supremacy.
C: Any photographers out there that provide inspiration?
B: You, Ansel Adams, all of group f.64, Daniel Sturt, Kate and Gier Jordahl, Glen Friedman, Joe Brook, Richard Avedon, micha bar-am, Atiba, grant Brittan, Margaret Boaurke white, Henri Cartier Bresson, Gabe Mordford, Phillipe Halsman, Robert Doisneau, Andre Kertsz, W. Eugene smith, Alfred Steiglitz, Jerry Uelsmann and Brian Gaberman
C: How do you handle post production?
B: Smoke a joint, drink some wine and get into some Photoshop / alien skin exposure action- mostly in my underwear. I haven’t printed in the darkroom in years so I won’t go into that process.
C: Besides shooting the vertical smile team do you work with other skaters?
B: Not at the moment. I mean if I see somebody I don’t know and I want to shoot they end up becoming a part of the smile. I am only here to get my friends some nice photos they can show their grandkids.
C: Any piece of equipment you favor or could not live without?
B: Nikon d300! I love that thing!!!!!
C: What is your favorite thing about shooting skating?
B: When the trick, lighting and composition all come together in big buttery image!
C: What is your least favorite thing?
B: Sore back and neck! It also bums me the fuck out when I forget to change from sequence size to still size and I get a beautiful shot that is super small. I don’t smoke weed before I shoot anymore to prevent that tragedy.
C: A bit of advice you might give to would be photographers out there?
B: Shoot everything at a feverous pace- not just skating
Know the basics- just cuz you have tight pants, a track bike and a old 35mm camera around your neck it doesn’t mean your lame out of focus shots are art.
Have rich parents to support your habit.
C: Thanks a ton for fielding my questions, I super appreciate it. Anything the folks should be on the look out for, and or any shout outs?
B: My beautiful wife Noel and my bad ass son Nick Cash, my dogs, Steve and the crew at ASF, Antonio Lalo Pimental from Calsiskatz, 621, Joe Virchis, Tim Marting, Skatepark Victoria, AUOK, Davis Street, all the people involved in the OG Think crew especially Phil Shao and Keith Cochrane, yoga chitta vritti nirodha, all the shit heads in life that showed me how I shouldn’t live, and last and certainly not least all you Vertical Smile fucks- James, Zach, Ryan, Gerardo, Jack, Moose, Jesse, Jesse, Muff, Stinky Steve, Ralph, Mikey P, Yunker, Allan, BDK and Struve- You guys fucking rule.