Killing It With Kindness: Daniel Lutheran Interview
Originally Published in our Jun/July 2012 issue.
Words: Chris Nieratko
Photos: John Bradford
Long before I met him, a photographer friend warned me that I would not like Daniel Lutheran. Supposedly, he was the antithesis of everything hardened shit-talkers embodied. "The kid is creepy-nice, like always happy," the rumors went. "He's constantly smiling and positive. He's a pretty fucked character." Daniel sounded awful. Almost Canadian. What manner of man was constantly happy? What was he hiding?
Then I met him and all these terrible things were proven true. He was unbelievably stoked on everything and wouldn't stop smiling. Then I met his brother, Andrew, and he was also smiling. The next day I met his parents who were out visiting from Albuquerque—AND THEY WERE SMILING! I looked on in disgust, thinking, "These people must be serial killers. They're going to kill me and bury me in a surf bag in the desert."
Then something strange happened: after a few hours with them, I found myself smiling. And I couldn't stop. That was more than a year ago, and every time I think about Daniel and the Lutherans, I smile. They're quite infectious and, needless to say, quite dangerous.
You're full am for Vans and Toy Machine. How did that happen so quickly? What's the secret? Did you choose to just be yourself on that first Vans road trip or did you try extra hard at every spot on demo-destruction mode?
Oh, absolutely not. Mainly, be yourself first of all because if you're faking the funk, it's gonna come out sometime; you can't always fake it. They gotta accept you for who you are, and as far as skating goes nobody likes a dude who does demos at spots. Whether or not you can, that's great to have the ability, but it's not even what skating is about. It's what do you bring to this diverse team. If it's a positive factor and enlightens people or they're psyched, it's how you get on, it seems. The more positive you are, the more people want to be around you. So, if you show up and kill it demo-style, that would come off wrong to me. It's rare instances that you see somebody and they're fully just smiling, laughing, and they're that good.
You say be who you are. Who is Daniel Lutheran?
Oh, I have no idea. Like, super space case. I don't want to be pigeonholed as any certain thing, but I'd like to think that I'm someone who cares about priorities in life, morals, just a nice kid. I'm just a skate rat, raised up well, and I have great friends. I am the company I keep.
Tell me how you became flow trash for Toy Machine in the first place.
Dude, it's baffling. I would just film. I didn't have a set goal. I was going to Central New Mexico Community College, and then it kind of metastasized, like, "Well I almost have a part." Then I moved to Phoenix and I didn't know anybody. I would just skate hard by myself. Long story short, I got two parts together.
What made you pick up and go to Phoenix?
I wanted change. I graduated high school early, so I was home going to college but something inside always said, "There's a bigger picture." I had been to Phoenix and Scottsdale before, because my family would go there every year. I just went solo. My parents dropped me off. I enrolled in school at another community college. I seriously had no friends, so I would just kick it. I was down for that; it shaped me quite a bit. I was there a whole year. Four months into it, I met two really good friends, Jake and Tyler. They didn't have any friends either, and we all just bro'd down. Now I'm skating with friends, so when I moved back home I had all this footage. I was like, "I'm gonna send it out; this is who I'm down for." I had the dude at The Beach Zone, the shop I ride for in Albuquerque, send it out. I'm down for Toy Machine. I've been down. I think it's weird, the art's sick, and I just felt like I could maybe fit in there. He sent it, and I sent an email myself to all the contacts on the website with this block of footie and then my friend Rocky Norton also sent my stuff out. I feel like he sent it to Ed [Templeton]; I didn't have Ed's email or anything. I never knew this till later on, but Josh Harmony saw my stuff and he sent it out. All this was coming together all at once, and I got an email from Mike Sinclair. He was like, "Yeah, we're down to give you a trial package. We'll give you four boards for one month. Send me everything you got." I was down. Getting four boards was the world. That's when I got on flow, two and a half years ago. I just worked for it. I sent them all my stuff. I got what's called a Mag Minute, a video part thing. That kind of helped a lot. I met Johnny Layton and Matt Bennett. Johnny, being the good guy he is, invited me to move in, so I did and worked hard and climbed the ladder. Everyone was bros. I'm really lucky; it's a family scene. Toy is so tight.
You and I were talking about how you just don't get on Toy Machine. What does it take?
I don't know any secrets or anything. I honestly went into it and made friends, made family. I honestly think Toy Machine is a family. You can't infiltrate it unless you truly are one of us. You kind of have to be weird. That might be one of the secrets: weird and into weird shit because everyone's a character on it.
Who would you say is the biggest character?
It could be Johnny. He's got the lifestyle; he's a good dude. There's so many different dimensions. Matt B. too because he's a mysterious character. He can't be pigeonholed; he's an enigma. And the stand-out character of the whole thing is Ed. I don't know how he does it.
He said in an interview that you, "make him scratch his head in disbelief on your success with the ladies."
That's sick. So he thinks I'm a big character, too; that's epic.
Has he asked you to pose for him yet?
No. I've been on these trips with him and Deanna and I have posed, but probably not what you're thinking.
No wang out?
No wang out. I think it's always an option with Ed, but he's never asked. I reckon some day I might do it. Kevin [Barnett] and his girl did it and Arto [Saari] and his girl have photos. Ed's down. If I had a nice girl, I might get some photos together; that'd be cool.
Is it ever awkward being around Deanna knowing you've seen her naked so many times in photos?
I don't think so. I don't mix any of the two up. She's the sweetest soul and she likes to get naked like everybody else. I just keep the line at, "This is who she is, and this is her artistic side." But it's interesting.
You enjoy taking nude photos yourself. What does Ed think of your photography?
I think he backs it. I think he sees a fellow lensman. I'm not saying I'm a photographer, but the things I'm interested in shooting photos of Ed definitely seems to be interested in as well.
Tell me about the girl you got to photograph at the House of Vans in Brooklyn for the first episode of the 3rd season of Adventures with Chris.
Her name was Kleio, and she was sweet. You introduced me to her and we got to know each other for a second. What do you want me to tell you about her?
Was it awkward at all knowing she was a professional and you're only amateur?
Yeah, it was for me. I'm full amateur, if even. She's pro as can be. I'm not knowing what to do. You were in the room. If I was solo, I'd go for that but with the bros around I had to be cool. And the girl is so sweet but she's getting naked right away in front of me. I like to think I'm a gentleman so there's the line of what am I allowed to do with this girl, even though she's getting naked, doing all the hard work for me.
Did you have a better time when you were alone in the bathroom?
Yeah, hell yeah. Way better.
You were talking about characters on Toy Machine. Leo has grown into quite the character over the years. Were you there when he got into that fight with his truck?
No, I wasn't actually. Leo is the sickest, first of all. He got a new truck after nailing it last year, with Skater of the Year and everything. So he was celebrating hard, and he loves guns. I wasn't there, but in the midst of things he's partying and shooting his gun off and next thing he's not feeling his truck anymore or his truck was talking shit to him or something, a brand new truck, and he shotgunned the side of it inside his garage. We looked at it, the bullet holes are right by the gas tank. It could have blown up and killed him. He didn't even know. He was just shooting, blacked out. He fought his truck. The roof is all dented. We asked him about it and he's like, "I don't even know, man. I have no idea."
Toy Machine has always had great characters. If you could bring back any one character from the past, who would it be?
Muska, for sure. He is someone everyone can look up to and respect. Fully expressing stoke throughout your whole life, that's tight. But there's so many epic characters to bring back. Like, Elissa Steamer is sick. BA is an interesting character, but I'll stick with Muska.
You were telling me Toy Machine has a new video coming out this year.
Yeah, they got a new video coming out after Halloween. Everyone has been filming hard since the last video, and everyone who is going to do it is going to do it big. I think it's going to focus on Provost. So, Colin will have a full part, me full part, Jordan Taylor, Leo and Johnny all with parts.
You also have the Vans video you're filming for. Is that a lot of pressure to nail both?
It's interesting right now because they're both in the grassroots stage. I do feel a little bit of pressure, to be honest, but it's fun because it's two big projects to work on and it's the only thing I got to do anyways. I'm pretty proud of where I ended up, on Toy Machine and Vans, so I'm psyched to work on something good for both. The Vans one will take me to epic places, and that's exciting. I'm trying not to stress out and just take it slow and skate hard. I'm trying to really work hard on both of them.
Where are you looking forward to traveling to for the Vans filming?
Greg Hunt said we're going to go to space soon, and it will be the first article in space, which I was excited about. I think you're on that trip, I don't know. Johnny for sure is.