Published in Whitelines Magazine Issue 96, March 2011
Interview: Tristan Kennedy
Bluebird Wax, a tiny kitchen-sink brand based in Jackson Hole, once produced a sticker which read: ‘Snowboarding. It was better when you hated us.’ Whether or not you believe the years of boards being banned from hills and riders being treated as a juvenile delinquents was really a golden era, there is definitely something in that sentiment. These days, what with the backing of billion-dollar companies, the official Olympic seal-of-approval, and the sport’s biggest star sponsored by the American equivalent of Primark, snowboarding can seem a little, well tame at times. The induction of more people into the culture we love is surely a good thing, but it’s still refreshing to know that there’s room for people like LNP in today’s snowboarding world. Because Laurent-Nicolas Paquin, to give him his full name, is a snowboarder in the truest sense of the word. In some ways this bearded Quebec native is a throwback to the early nineties - the in-it-for-the-love, skateboarding, hard-partying, Shawn Farmer period. At the same time however, he’s pushing the boundaries of modern snowboarding, landing never-been-done tricks in a string of amazing video parts. His mixture of new-school tricks and an old-school attitude has won him many fans, but if you met Laurent on the street in the summer, you’d never guess he was one of the best rail riders in the world. His punk rock, DIY approach to everything - from his riding to his fashion sense - keeps his feet firmly on the ground. Like the Brits in the article on p. 86, LNP took his first trip to the rail Mecca of Helsinki recently, where we caught up with him to chew the fat. Here’s what the most punk rock rider in snowboarding had to say.
Hey Laurent, how are you doing? How’s Helsinki?
Ah it’s pretty good man, there’s like tons of snow outside, but it’s not too cold. We got a pretty good guide out here, Pasi Salminen, who’s showing us a bunch of spots. Compared to the states and Canada it’s just a bit more mellow. Like we were like riding some spots today and people are like “Oh sorry, sorry". And they actually know to jump over the in-run and stuff like that! In Canada and the US we always have to be like “Oh sorry sir, sorry mam". Here it seems like they’re pretty stoked. And most of the time the cops will stop and like check you out… and they’ll be interested. In the states they’re just a bunch of jocks who think they’re like the power of the planet!
So tell me a bit about your home? What’s the town you grew up in like?
Ah it’s a small town, called Charny, a little bit outside of Quebec City. It’s just a small town, I dunno, there’s not really anything there. Like uhm, like we used to have a really shitty skatepark. Now it’s a little bit better… What else? Erm my friend Ben Bilocq is from there too, so we grew up together.
Did a lot of you skate in Charny growing up?
Yeah, when we were young, a lot of people used to skate with us. But I went back recently and it seems like all people would do would be like smoke weed and drink and drive around in their cars…. hick style. But now we have a better skatepark, so I feel like kids will hopefully skate a bit more. There’s a couple of kids that snowboard too. You have to drive like 45 minutes to the closest resort, so it’s not too bad. And the snowboard scene is pretty small in Quebec. Even now, it’s just a bunch of kids that like, ride together doing the same contests.
Were you into contests when you were younger?
Yeah. I mean, being from Quebec, or like being from Canada, it’s like pretty far from everything. It’s pretty small. I mean you can do rails, but to get to where I am now I had to try doing everything. Like do even really shitty comps and hope someone noticed.
You felt like you were missing out on the main snowboard scene by being from Canada and Quebec?
Yeah yeah. It was kind of crazy ‘cos we would like watch videos from guys in the US and some of the guys were kind of sloppy, and we’d be like: “Fuck that man, how come they get paid?! I can do that shit and even do it better!" So when we started filming with our friends, our goal was to do everything perfect. It was just like fuck, if that guy does it, and gets paid, I’m gonna do it so good that someone’s gonna be like: “Alright, that kid can fuckin’ do some shit you know?!" So we would just drive around and do rails. That’s all there was.
“I used to wear like pretty big pants. I used to be bummed out, cos my pants weren’t baggy enough!“
How old were you when you started doing that then?
Erm I think I was like 18? Like 17, 18? Around that time.
And how old are you now dude?
Uh, I’m 24. Well, I’m turning 25 on like… actually on Saturday! [laughs]
Nice! You gonna have a big night out on Helsinki then?
Yeah probably! I don’t know where I’m gonna go, but I’m gonna get drunk that’s for sure! [laughs]
“We would watch videos from guys in the US and some of them were kind of sloppy. We’d be like: ‘Fuck that man, how come they get paid?!’“
The way you describe your filming it sounds kind of more like a skate thing – just driving around the city finding spots, filming on them and then moving on… were you and your mates big into skating too?
Yeah, it’s exactly like that. That’s what we did. Renting generators and like buying work lights. And building drop-ins.
Who were you looking up to and where were you getting your ideas from back then?
Well, I think the first movies I watched were just the basic ones like I mean fuckin’ True Life. The Resistance. That stuff. But then one day Ben bought back a new movie and we watched it and just freaked out man! That was Love/Hate. We watched that movie and there were like tons of rails, and people were doing really good fuckin’ tricks and it had such a skate vibe to it as well you know? It was so sick. So that was pretty much my favourite movie – that and Burning Bridges.
OK, cos your style of riding – totally jib-focussed - is obviously pretty different to what was going on in The Resistance and True Life and stuff…
Yeah, well, I watched those when I was pretty young. And always - like my whole life – I’ve watched skate movies. And I’ve always been fuckin’ hyped on skateboarding. I skate as much as I snowboard I think, but just for fun. Me and one of my friends who just skates – he doesn’t snowboard – but has a camera, we just make little skate edits the whole summer. So that’s where that style comes from. My summer is pretty much just drinking beer and hanging out with friends and skating every day! [laughs]
You’ve never been tempted to go down to New Zealand to get a few more tricks for your part or anything?
No, no. The summer for me is fuckin’ vacation. But I’ll go to the Camp of Champions in Whistler or Mt Hood to go to summer camps for a week or something. But I get my fair share of snowboarding in the winter.
When you started out, did you have a vision of where you wanted to get to? Where you wanted snowboarding to take you?
Well, it was always like a dream. Like right now I’m living the fuckin’ dream. Like every kid wants to do that right? But at the time, it was just like skateboarding is now. The fun part of it for me was just like pushing myself. Some people hate filming, ‘cos they think it’s too serious or whatever. But that’s what I do. I fuckin’ love filming. Just like trying a trick a few times, and then landing it and getting the shot just makes me so hyped! And I have so much fun the whole time. I mean you should ask people that film with me. I mean I’ll get serious if something’s looking really fuckin’ sketchy, but if it’s just like a downrail I’ll be like cracking jokes, and just mellow.
So it still feels like you’re pissing about with your mates?
Yeah, yeah exactly. It’s just snowboarding. Having fun. And back in the beginning especially it was pretty mellow, we were just filming little movies just to show people what we could do.
“I got pretty into growing my beard.“
How did you first get hooked up with Rome then, and when did you realise you could maybe make a career from it?
Well the first time I got anything from Rome was like erm… I had this magazine, like a Transworld Magazine I think it was, and there was like this thing about new companies. And there was Rome, there was Supernatural I think, and Andromeda – some company that didn’t really work out – so I took every address from those companies from the magazine, and I made a little ‘sponsor-me’ tape. It was on a CD, and I sent it to Rome, and I gave one to like the Rome rep in Quebec. And then I checked my email, and I had an email from Josh Reid, who’s like the owner of Rome. I was like: “Fuck yeah!" And I’ve been with Rome since. Josh told me once at a sales meeting that I was the only kid that ever got sponsored by them with a ‘sponsor-me’ videotape!
Yeah, ‘cos even then, it was kind of old-school right? If you look at how kids are getting hooked up these days it tends to be through contests and stuff…
Yeah, the sponsor-me tape doesn’t exist any more. The guys at Rome are like: “Yeah, we don’t take that shit anymore, we’ll go to contests or we’ll go to like a resort and be like yeah that kid’s pretty good." But with contests, if you look at how snowboarding is now, with the Olympics and shit, it doesn’t surprise me that kids want to do contests. You know how much fuckin’ money they can win at a contest? You know with that I feel like snowboarding’s just gonna become a fuckin’ [spits it out like a dirty word] sport. Which it was never meant to be you know? Snowboarding is not a sport. You don’t need a fuckin’ coach, you don’t need to train for it!
You’re not into the coaches and specialist snowboard schools that kids are going to these days?
No. I mean if people wanna do it like that, then that’s what they want to do, but I feel like that shit’s just killing snowboarding. Skateboarding’s getting the same now too. But I mean, this shit used to be banned from mountains and shit. Skiers used to be like “no snowboarders here". And even when they allowed it, snowboarding used to be the badass shit. Then it got bigger and bigger, and the whole like… Olympic thing? That is really fucked up. I mean, they seriously have like coaches, and they seriously train and it’s like… you know it’s not…ah it’s just fuckin’ crazy.
You feel like it’s gone in a different direction then?
Yeah. You know, like I quite baseball ‘cos I’d rather skate then fuckin’ play baseball…
Were you good at baseball?
Well, my dad was coach, I think I was alright. But then I started skating so I dropped that. My dad’s like a big skier, so I started skiing young – at the age of three my dad would drive the whole family to the resort, so I skied from like three to ten, and then at ten I grabbed a snowboard – my pop bought me one for Christmas – and that was it. My dad’s super-hyped I snowboard you know. He’s probably like my number one fan! He’s got a picture of me on his desk and he’s so hyped on everything.
Basically the appeal of snowboarding when you first got into it was that it was like and outsider sport then? Not mainstream?
Yeah. I mean I got lucky when I was young that I could get a pass for the resort or whatever, and some kids can’t afford a pass for resorts. But I still think that even if I didn’t have one, I would have just gone out, found a hill, and taken whatever metal pieces were lying about. Or jibbed a picnic table or something like that you know. There are so many spots in Quebec, it’s pretty easy. I don’t think a kid needs to go to a resort, you can build shit in your back yard even.
Do you feel like that ‘go out and ride anything’ jib style is a reaction to the way snowboarding’s becoming more like a mainstream sport?
I don’t think it’s a reaction against it, ‘cos there’s like rail contests and stuff now, where they put stairs and shit. I think it’s just like… well, we don’t have giant mountains. For a kid that doesn’t have money… when you compare it to skating, you know how skateboarding you can skate anywhere? But snowboarding you need a pass to snowboard. And the jib thing is like “No, you don’t need a pass! All you need is snow.“ That’s the thing people don’t really understand, you can build a fuckin’ jump anywhere you go. Like my friend Ben, there’s a golf course right behind his house, and that’s where he snowboarded like all the time. Just doing jumps and stuff. Like he learnt backflips on a golf course! [laughs]
“Snowboarding is not a sport. You don’t need a f*ckin’ coach, you don’t need to train for it!“
You obviously spend a lot of your time riding rails and filming your jib parts. How often do you get to ride powder? Are you into it? ‘Cos we never see that…
Uhm, I really like what I’m doing. I’ve always been a rail guy, I think about it 24-7. So yes I like powder, it’s fucking awesome, but I hate filming powder. Like I’m a really quick and fast dude. Filming a rail, it’ll take me thirty seconds. I’ll be up there and I’ll just drop right away. I’ve had photographers and filmer dudes have a problem with me because I was too quick! But in fuckin’ powder, you have to wait for the sun, you have to wait for this shit and that shit, and then you hit it three times and the landing’s done. It’s like “I wanna fucking snowboard, I wanna hit that shit a hundred times if I want to!“
So you don’t fell constrained by the fact that you’re branded as a jibber?
No, not really you know? Like I’m not forcing myself to do it.
“I’m turning 25 on Saturday. I don’t know where I’m gonna go, but I’m gonna get drunk that’s for sure!“
There’s no pressure from your sponsors at all?
No, I mean that’s what I do. Like a couple of years ago, they were like “OK, you’re gonna need some backcountry jump in your part.“ And I was like “Oh fuck, OK, I’ll try.“ So I tried it and I fuckin’ ate shit! I bought a snowmobile, and I fuckin’ crashed it like a maniac. But now you watch movies, and you see like one dude who always does powder. I’m not gonna turn around and be like “Why’s that dude not got a rail in his part?“ I don’t wanna do like a fuckin’ tiny front seven or a front three. People used to tell me “oh yeah kids care man, they love that shit!“ But I’m like “No. No, they don’t. Kids want to see me ride rails.“ Or like now, I’ll jump over shit, but it’s gonna be like, pretty hard. It’s not gonna be a jump in a park or anything. Like I’m pretty stoked on what all the Technine dudes are doing, like the big gaps and shit.
And what about the development of new tricks in jibbing? What do you think of Jeremy Jones’ tail-whip things?
Oh yeah. That’s I mean [pause] I don’t know about the tail-whip. That’s his own thing you know. His own shit I guess.
Did you look up to Jeremy when you were a kid?
Yeah. Yeah, like I think everyone did right? Him and JP were like the jibbers. But he always used to do big shit, and I like to do a little more tech shit. He still does fuckin’ giant stuff!
So when you were a kid, did you wear baggy pants and bandannas and stuff?
Err I used to yeah. I used to wear like pretty big pants. I used to be like bummed out, cos my pants weren’t baggy enough! [laughs] And I used to wear like bandannas on my face… like a fuckin’ gangster. But I went through a couple of phases. I switched to like Ramones style - like tight leather jacket or tight jean jacket, and not-quite-tight pants and then I switched to like tight jeans and normal clothes. And then a couple of years ago I had a phase where I dressed like a fuckin’ pirate! [laughs] That was pretty complicated though, cos I had to put like five under-layers on. Those were the tiniest shirts, not made for riding. But I like being different, I hate having the same shit as everybody else. Nowadays I’m a bit more mellow with what I wear though, I just wear like a flannel and like a hat. But I got pretty into growing my beard, so I grew a giant beard.
How long have you been growing that thing for? It’s pretty big now!
Ah, I think I’ve been going for like 7 months now, and I wanna go for a year I think. I think even after a year if I’m hyped on it, I might just keep going, and end up growing it super-long! [laughs]
When you were wearing all that pirate stuff did you have a clothing sponsor? How did they fell about that?
Yeah uhm, I was on Holden, and not too long ago - even last year - I didn’t wear that much shit from Holden. I really hate to wear like logos you know? I like to wear stuff I get on ebay. I like to buy like beer shirts actually [laughs] that’s my big shit. And I buy them already old so they’re super-tiny or already have holes in them and shit. But I had a talk with Mikey [LeBlanc, legendary rider and Holden Founder], and Mikey was like “Well, if you don’t wanna like help us, we’re not gonna help you“. And that kind of made sense. I guess it was like if I’m on Rome and I go and buy some like old-ass, shitty board at the fuckin’ thrift store and ride with it. So I was like, “alright, well I have a couple of ideas you know?“ So they made some pretty sick flannel shirt, that looks like you have a hood on underneath, and then Mikey gave me a pro-model jacket actually, and it’s pretty sick. I have it right now and I’m super-stoked on it.
“There’s a jukebox, there’s a dart board and a pool table, and that’s all I need dude.“
How do you feel about the business side of snowboarding in general? Do you have a manager or an agent, or do you deal with contracts and stuff yourself?
Uh, I sign my own shit yeah. I don’t believe in managers, I think uh, if you get a manager it’s just gonna throw you into like money and shit. And I feel like yes, I need to be able to make money. I’m 25, and I won’t be able to do that shit fuckin’ forever, so I do need to put some on the side, and I fuckin’ bust my ass out there, so I wanna be paid like I’m supposed to be paid right? And it is business. They’re never gonna be like “Oh yeah, we want to pay you more!“ So I don’t really have a manager, but my dad helps me out a lot with everything. If I have a contract or something I’ll just sit with him and we’ll like read it and go through it together. Cos I’m not really like… I’m still like a little kid. I just read it real fast and I’m like “Oh sick yeah, money!“ and then just sign it. [laughs]
So is there anything in your contract that really makes it feel like a job? Anything that you have to do that you don’t really enjoy doing that much?
Ah yeah… It says in the contract, that I Rome needs me somewhere, I have to go. So if I don’t wanna go, if I wanna skate with my buddies in the summer, but I have to go and coach kids, like some little shithead at a summer camp, then well, I have to. But I mean like fuck it, sometimes I get pissed off, but then you think about it again and you’re like “What am I pissed off about? People are working right now.“ There is stuff though, like travelling. I mean there are two parts to travelling, like super-fun to get there and explore and stuff, but all the time in the airports, and the shitty tickets ‘cos good ones are too expensive, so you have five stops on the way. I’ve slept on airport floors like so many times. It’s not all cool shit…
Are you still based in Quebec mostly? Do you live in Quebec City?
Ah I still live in Charny. I live in the basement of my parents’ house [laughs] Yeah, with all the travelling and shit, it’s hard to get an apartment. I’d just be paying and not being there. But I wanna move this summer for sure.
What’s it like living there, where do you go out? What are the clubs like?
Ah, they kind of suck [laughs] They’re all like kind of dance clubs, where all the dudes have like tight T-shirts and gelled mohawks and stuff. But there’s a sick pub right in my town. I always wanna go there and people are always like “no, it’s shit“ but I’m like fuckin’ stoked. There’s a jukebox, and there’s a dart board and a pool table, and that’s all I need dude. I go there, I put like five dollars in the jukebox, get some Sabbath, get a beer and play darts!
Sabbath are your favourite band then?
Yeah, Black Sabbath. Hands down.
Have you ever been to England? If you’re into that stuff you need to visit…
No I’ve never been. But it seems like all the fuckin’ bands are from there. There’s probably some awesome clubs as well right? Do you have sick bars you go to? Fuck yeah, I need to go there. I could drink some beer and listen to good bands and shit. Yeah!
Yeah do it dude! Cool, cheers Laurent.
Aight, cool. Thanks man, I’m stoked. I’m gonna go to the lobby bar and get some drinks.