Top 10 Skateboarders Who Became Musicians

Skateboarding and music mingle nicely, from the soundtracks of skate videos to the shredders themselves hitting notes. For some skaters, it's hard to say what comes first, the music or the maple. It's not uncommon while learning about a band to find that a member or two has skateboarding in their past, so we thought we'd take a stab at a Top 10 of sorts. That's not to say there aren't gazillions of skater savants who are melodically inclined. But here's a rundown of our faves.


10. Ethan Fowler

Bands he's been in: Green and Wood

Longhaired, bearded wild card Ethan Fowler wowed the kids back in post-Toy Machine, Big Brother days as one of the elite in videos such as Stereo Skateboards' Tincan Folklore (with My Name Is Earl's Jason Lee) and more. He and Stereo owner Chris Pastras did the music for the video as the Bucket Brothers, to boot.

More recently, the 35-year-old fronted LA stoner-doom rock band Green and Wood. The group have been around since 2007 and played South By Southwest in 2010. He sings, plays guitar and drums on the band's self-titled album. He's not a real chatterbox, and he's not big on the social media that is hip with the kids these days, so it's hard to know what the hell is up with him.

9. Tony Alva

Bands he's been in: The Skoundrelz, G.F.P.

Tony Alva, one of the original Z-Boys skaters, was the first to form his own skate company, Alva Skates, back in 1977. His aggressive style took the industry by storm, putting Dogtown on the map.

In addition to his skating talents, Alva also rips on bass. In the 1980s, he was a member of the Skoundrelz with Mike Dunnigan and Mike Ball (Suicidal Tendencies) and Dave Hurricane (Wasted Youth). Currently, he plays in the hardcore punk band G.F.P., a.k.a. General Fucking Principle, which also includes vocalist Tom Paul Davis (DFL), whose friends call him Crazy Tom for a reason; guitarist Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks, Bad Religion); and drummer Amery Smith (Suicidal Tendencies). They are working on new material with Mario Caldato Jr. of Beastie Boys fame.

8.Steve Caballero

Bands he's been in: The Faction, Odd Man Out, Shovelhead, Soda

“Skate and Destroy” became a bit of a skateboarding mantra in the mid-1980s, thanks to the Faction, a skate-punk band featuring Steve Caballero on guitar from 1982 to 1985. The song with that title was prominent in Powell Peralta's Bones Brigade Video Show, prompting the phrase to be lovingly placed on many a skate deck at the time. The band was composed of all skaters, including singer Gavin O'Brien, guitarist Jeff Kendall, drummer Craig Bosch and others rotating in and out. They played their first gig opening for Social Distortion in San Jose.

Caballero, who was named Skater of the Century by Thrasher in 1999, went on to be in alt-rock band Odd Man Out (1987-89) and rock band Shovelhead (1991-94) and played pop-punk with Soda (1995-96). Session Records released a compilation CD with various bands he's been in called Bandology Vol. 1.

7. Ray Barbee

Bands he's been in: Solo artist, BLKTOP Project

From San Jose hails Ray Barbee, who is best known in the skating world for his no-comply variations and stellar parts in Powell Peralta videos such as Public Domain and Ban This. The current Long Beach resident has a signature shoe with Vans and bragging rights as one of the first African-Americans pro skaters.

And while his skating is stylish, it was his 2003 debut EP on Galaxia Records, Triumphant Procession, that caught the ears of guitar lovers with his jazz-influenced surf-rock instrumental tracks. That led to 2005's In Full View. In March 2007, he recorded in Japan with the Mattson 2 and released Ray Barbee Meets the Mattson 2. Their music has been featured on NPR, a number of surf videos, as well as a Ford commercial. Barbee gets extra skate points for his collaboration with Tommy Guerrero for BLKTOP Project, which also included fellow skater Matt Rodriguez, who is in the band Sacramento Storytellers.


6. Mike Vallely

Bands he's been in: Black Flag, Good for You

Mike Vallely is many things: skateboarder, actor, stuntman, minor-league hockey player, professional wrestler, punk-rock musician. Vallely was famously discovered by Neil Blender from atop a ramp at a spring 1986 vert contest in Virginia. Blender, along with Lance Mountain, watched Vallely skating in a car park next door. That impromptu intro led to an amateur deal with Powell-Peralta. By August, he was on the cover of Thrasher. The next year, his mug was in Search for Animal Chin. Most recently, he started Elephant Brand Skateboards.

Vallely's long, storied skating career ran parallel with his musical interests. He first joined Resistance in 1985, but he only played one live show, opening for 7 Seconds, before exiting to focus on skating. He fronted his own band, Mike V and the Rats, in the early 2000s, followed by Revolution Mother in the late 2000s.

In 2003, he joined Greg Ginn to sing for Black Flag at a reunion show in LA. Nearly a decade later, the two joined forces to form Good for You, which saw its debut album on SST, Life Is Too Short to Not Hold a Grudge, hit the streets Feb. 26. Good for them.


5. Matt Costa

Bands he's played in: Solo artist, Reverend Baron

If you've read any articles about Matt Costa, even ones here in OC Weekly, you're probably already aware of his past as a kick-flippin' crooner. However, early in his pro skating career, a bad landing off a 10-stair ledge abruptly cut his skating career short, shattering his leg. He was 19. The bright side was that the Huntington Beach resident picked up his guitar during the 18 months he was laid up and started putting together some low-fi tunes. No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont heard his demo and offered to record his first album. Soon after, Costa signed to Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records and released Songs We Sing (2006). Since then, he has played Coachella twice, filmed music vids with Emmett Malloy, and had songs placed in movies such as I Love You, Man. Most recently, he teamed up with producer Tony Doogan (Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai) for a self-titled release, which came out Feb. 12. Pro skater Danny Garcia plays on the release, and Costa returns the favor for Garcia's band, Reverend Baron. 

4. Steve Alba

Bands he's played in: The Wild Ones, the Flame Throwers, Screaming Lord Salba and His Heavy Friends, Slaves of Rhythm, Dirty Bastards, Powerflex 5

Badlander Steve Alba, a.k.a. Salba, owned Upland's L-Pool and Combi Pool, as well as Baldy Pipe, back in '70s and the early '80s, giving the Dogtown boys a run for their money. As part of the Santa Cruz team, the now-50-year-old father of two terrorized the coping, sniffing out secret spots and documenting his exploits in Thrasher, Heckler and more. He's still at it.

Growing up, Salba's best friend was George Bellanger, a fellow skater. Their first band was the Wild Ones and featured another skater, James McGarrety; he and Bellanger left to start Goth-rock band Christian Death. Salba met up with Kurt Ross, then in Kent State, a.k.a. Red Brigade. Ross started to play with the band as they shared stages with Agent Orange, 45 Grave and others. That band slowly transitioned into the Flamethrowers, which played with T.S.O.L., Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Replacements and more. As the band started to lean more toward glam rock, Salba returned to his first love: skating. He now plays in Powerflex 5 with tattoo artist Corey Miller of L.A. Ink fame.


3) Tommy Guerro

Bands he's played in: Free Beer, solo artist
The 46-year-old co-founded Real Skateboards, and his improvisational style transformed asphalt for many a skater to follow. Most recently, he has been collaborating with Indy Trucks. The ad for the signature trucks features Guerrero skating with a walker, natch. At the 15th annual TransWorld SKATEboarding Awards on Feb. 27, he received the Legend Award.

Guerrero started out in the skate-punk band Free Beer in 1981 with his brother Tony. The band broke up in 1983, but not before playing shows with Social Distortion, Bad Brains, the Adolescents, Minor Threat and others. Guerrero moved on to the experimental group Jet Black Crayon with Monte Vallier (of Swell) and Gadget on turntables. But Guerrero achieved his biggest success as a solo artist with mostly instrumental soundscapes, starting with Loose Grooves and Bastard Blues, recorded in 1995 for a skate video he filmed. The compositions were filled out with guest vocals by Lyrics Born and Gresham Taylor. Guerrero released Lifeboats and Follies in 2011 on Galaxia.

2. Matt Hensley
Bands he's played in: Flogging Molly, Spy Kids

San Diego's Matt Hensley found his way to the accordion and Irish punk band Flogging Molly by way of a skate deck. The squeezeboxer fell in love with the band Operation Ivy in an H-Street Skateboards video, the same company he went on to skate for in vids such as Shackle Me Not. Around that time, he played in a female-fronted ska band in the early '90s, Spy Kids, along with members who went on to play in Unwritten Law and Buck-O-Nine. But he hadn't yet picked up an accordion. He'd fallen in love with it while on tour with a band. Hensley met Flogging Molly lead singer Dave King by chance at LA bar Molly Malone's, just as King was putting the band together.

“I believe I have been really lucky; my life has been skateboarding and playing music,” Hensley told Ride Channel in an interview. “If I can continue to do these two things and somehow put a shirt on my son's back while I am doing it, I am a lucky. Man. I would not be playing accordion in this crazy band if it weren't for skateboarding — I know that to be the truth. Skateboarding has given me everything.”

1. Duane Peters
Bands he's played in: U.S. Bombs, Political Crap, the Mess, Exploding Fuckdolls, Duane Peters and the Great Unwashed, Duane Peters and the Hunns, Duane Peters Gunfight

The Master of Disaster is a punk-rock and pool-skating legend, credited for inventing the Acid Drop, the Indy Air and his signature move, the Fakie Hang-up, a.k.a. the Disaster. Peters, aside from being unbelievably candid about everything from copulating with blow-up dolls to doing time to shooting up in his neck, is punk as fuck. He received TransWorld SKATEboarding's Legend award back in 2003. There's even a movie, released by Black Label Skateboards, titled Who Cares: The Duane Peters Story, if you'd like to go up close and personal.

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