William Strobeck, known simply as Bill by those closest to him, is this generation’s Spike Jonze. In 2014, he singlehandedly changed the direction of modern skate videos with the release of “cherry”. It was the first full-length from both Strobeck and Supreme, and had a similar impact to Jonze and Mark Gonzales’s Video Days when that debuted in 1991.
“cherry” introduced the world to a group of skaters that would go on to become icons. At the time, most videos felt like blockbuster movies that were far removed from the D.I.Y. spirit that birthed them. With street life vignettes that feel like you are watching the sessions live, Strobeck brought back an aesthetic that was lost sometime during the transition from standard to high definition. It had clearly been missed.
Bill’s trajectory was foreshadowed over a decade earlier. Before Tyshawn Jones, Na-Kel Smith, and “BLESSED”, there was Anthony Pappalardo, Brian Wenning, and Photosynthesis. He cut his teeth during the Josh Kalis and Stevie Williams era at Love Park. And his footage helped craft the Sovereign Sect’s look during its golden age. With that sort of pedigree, no one should be surprised by what Strobeck would go on to accomplish after.
But Bill didn’t get to where he is today without a little bit of luck. His Alien Workshop years were the start of an ongoing collaboration with Jason Dill. This friendship has landed him in “the right place at the right time” at multiple points during his career. The connection with Dill and a breakup with a longtime girlfriend were responsible for transplanting Strobeck to New York in 2002 after a seven-year stint in Philly. And N.Y.C. would prove to be a key element in the progression of his craft.
There were still shades of the old New York during those initial post-911 years. Bill, Dill, Chloë Sevigny, Ben Cho, Leo Fitzpatrick, Dash Snow, the Razo brothers, etcetera’s gallivanting between Max Fish, Sway, and The Hole is well-documented in the archives of Patrick O’Dell’s Epicly Later’d blog. They seemed to be the heirs apparent of the Downtown scene created by Warhol, Basquiat, Futura, Jim Jarmusch, Debbie Harry, and the rest of the legendary denizens of ‘80s L.E.S. Mingling with artists, designers, actors, and fashionistas allowed Strobeck to further develop his eye for what’s cool. This influence is highly visible in his output over the past six years.
Instead of just showcasing tricks, Strobeck creates a mood through providing a glimpse into his subjects’ lifestyles. It’s more in line with what Larry Clark and Mathieu Kassovitz did with KIDS and La Haine, respectively, than a traditional skate video. And it works so seamlessly with Supreme’s branding that it’s hard to imagine anyone else making its films. Currently, you’d be hard-pressed to watch one of the dozens of skate edits that are released weekly and find one that doesn’t borrow a little (or a lot) from Strobeck’s work. If those that shape the culture is the underlying theme of Mission Statement, there isn’t a more fitting guest for our 2020 season premiere.