From the moment I first became familiar with the work of Todd Bratrud, I was nothing short of envious. Not only did he show remarkable versatility and skill in what he was capable of doing—from graphic design to illustration—but he had ideas. Lots of them. The provocative kind that make you laugh and recall years later, much like the graphic output of World Industries, Blind and 101 circa 1989–1994. Although Todd had been involved with the industry since 1998 (and I guess I even met him once prior to that during a Big Brother road trip to Minneapolis, MN, in 1997), I didn't really get to know him until 2003 when I interviewed him for Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art and he proved to be a very humble character. Just super stoked to be doing what he's doing and eking out a living from it—the skateboarder/artist's dream life.
Twelve years after first getting his foot in the door over at Consolidated, Todd has finally taken the industry plunge and started up his very own skateboard company: The High Five. I'd once entertained a similar idea four or five years ago with a "Disposable" board brand, but soon gave up in frustration after it was more or less explained to me that boards simply can't be produced the way they once were in the '80s—or at least not without a retail price point of a hundred bucks or more. So, once I'd heard about Todd's new company, I was naturally curious about his plans. Here's what he had to say...
For those that might not be familiar with your past, give me the CliffsNotes version on how you first became involved in the skateboard industry.
Around the late '90s, my roommate Billy Kahn was getting boards from Consolidated. I ended up doing a few graphics for Consolidated while Billy was on the team. After about a year I was asked to move to Santa Cruz and full time "art direct" Consolidated, and that's what I did. I was doing graphics at Consolidated for a solid chunk of years, but eventually left over some Nike SB drama and started doing freelance graphics.
How many companies have you worked for since then?
The main stuff was companies like Volcom, The Skateboard Mag, Nike SB, Enjoi, Burlesque of North America, Flip, and Familia Skateboard shop, as well as starting/running Teenage Runaway Urethane. Those were—and for the most part still are—the main people I work with.In all that time didn't you learn that owning your own company is probably the worst idea ever? What made you want to start it?
I think I've learned that a number of times and witnessed it more than a few as well ... I had a few people offer me the chance to do my own brand, but I never had any real desire to entertain the offers. I was really having a good time working with a range of different companies. Then I had been talking to Brian Heck, who I have known forever, about helping him get boards from someone, and the more I thought about who he would be a good fit with, the more I started to think about what if I did a little art brand and Heck could be the "team." I mentioned it to Joey at Resource Distro (who I do Teenage Runaway Urethane with) and after he thought about it for an afternoon he told me he wanted to do
it—but that we should just go full blast. And this is where it's at now.
What are some of the more technical production specs on The High Five boards?
The wood is by Excellent. I'm gonna do a mix of transfers and screen-printed graphics, most likely keeping the print method appropriate to the board the graphic is going on. Similar to most art folk in skateboarding, I don't like transfers, but there is no point in having all the boards painstakingly printed by hand only to have the graphic destroyed in a few hours. So for the popsicles it will be transfers, but for the special shapes and odd projects I want to keep it as special as it should be.Any plans for a team?
Well, as of Friday, May 21st, Steve Nesser is the first pro. Brian Heck, Preston Harper, and Steve Fauser are the first official ams. I also have a handful of flow people that are doing some pretty cool shit.Where are The High Five boards available from?
Resource Distribution. I would hope that a person could walk into almost any skate shop and buy one, but that's in the kids' hands, so ask your local shop to order some!