Brian Wenning, without a doubt, is on the top-10 favorites list of every visitor to this site. So it is with caution that I write up a wordy intro to a skater who has so firmly established himself in skateboarding—you don’t need to hear that. Instead, the question on everyone’s mind is, “What happened to Brian Wenning?” From a decade-long relationship with DC and a coveted spot on Plan B’s official roster, B. Wenning has lately faded into obscurity. When I approached him to do this interview, his reply was simple: “Yeah man, 100 percent. I’d like to clear a few things up. I’m down.”
Intro and Interview By Dustin Umberger
Dustin: Your recent transition from spotlight to obscurity has left a lot of questions unanswered. To start, what exactly happened with Plan B?
Brian: Well to tell you the truth, I’ve always been a low-key dude when it came to coverage and what not. When I left Habitat, Chris Carter warned me heavily about Syndrome (which distributes Plan B skateboards). Well, a lot of things happened with Plan B. First the checks started coming late, and then they basically wouldn’t come at all. I mean Tech Deck royalty checks that were insane numbers to me that I was promised and had received before—they also never showed up. It wasn’t just me. There still are other dudes on Plan B now that weren’t getting paid either. I had a contract with them. It just turned from a month late, then two months late, then three months late, then, “Oh yeah dude, we got you on a big-ass royalty check from Tech Deck.” So I’m thinking it’s $6,000 like the one I got the year before. So I was just thinking in my head, “Okay, I believe these guys are going to give me my Tech deck money, and we’ll take it from there. And maybe I’ll receive some of my back-pay checks. I’m getting ready to go on a Plan B filming trip to AZ, and they still owe me four back-pay checks. I got a mortgage payment, car payments, cell phone bills, and they’re all adding up. So dude at Plan B ( I wont mention his name) the day before the AZ trip, promises me the Tech Deck royalty check, and one of the monthly salary checks that was already owed to me. I’m all hyped up to go to AZ. So I walk into Syndrome Distribution / Plan B, and dude gives me one check in back pay, and says the Tech Deck check will be in AZ once I get there. I take the one check, cash it immediately, and just started thinking on my drive alone to AZ about how this is some real dirty shit they’re pulling on me. Basically, on that ride alone, I made the choice to not even meet up with them in AZ. I stayed with family and friends the whole time.
I knew that check wasn’t going to be in Arizona waiting for me. I’m not that stupid man. I talked to a few people in the skate industry, and a few people that just work real normal jobs. What I got out of it was this: who works for four months without pay? So I planned it out, and called my lawyer. Me and my lawyer sent a letter to Syndrome Distribution about all the money they owe me. He sends the letter and we get no response. Our letter stated that they (Syndrome) had already breached my contract by not paying me. So we don’t want to go any further with this. All we want is the back-pay owed. At this point, I can’t believe that growing up as a skate rat, I now have to get myself a lawyer to get my pay from a skateboard company. When I was at Alien / Habitat it wasn’t ever like this. And they didn’t even do contracts. So I wasn’t used to the dirty side of the skate industry. Chris Carter and Mike Hill just did the old school handshake “welcome to the family” type deal. And I truly loved that.
About two weeks after they received my lawyer’s letter, I get a reply claiming that I breached the contract by not having “team morale,” and not showing up to events like the one in Arizona. I didn’t show up because they owed me thousands of dollars that I was entitled to in a written contract. To me this was a real relief, I never felt comfortable at Plan B anyway. It almost seemed that my love for skateboarding wasn’t there while I was on Plan B. I love Colin, he is a real-ass dude. To me, he is actually a friend. PJ is my man. Gallant is dope. Me and him would share hotel rooms on tour every time we traveled. Duffy is like an older brother to me. Danny, he’s the godfather. To end this question, it was Syndrome Distribution that fucked me. Not Danny, not Colin. I still talk to Colin to this day. Bottom line, he’s a real dude.
Dustin: After DC, your shoe situation was ambiguous. What went down with Circa / Axion?
Brian: I got involved with Circa through my friend Travis Jackson. He used to work at DC as a shoe designer. He threw my name to them at Circa, and they liked the idea of possibly putting me on the team. I had a few meetings with the main guys at Circa. And I signed a three-month contract to not sign with any other shoe company. So three months passed, and they contacted me about helping them with being the main pro behind the resurrection of Axion under Circa. As a kid, I loved Axion. And my friend Travis was supposed to be the head of the new Axion. Then, Travis got fired, and shit changed. But as far as Axion, I ain’t even going to speak on it too much. The dude that runs Axion now said some pretty ridiculous shit to me. Like over the top type shit! So bottom line, I talked to the higher ups and we set up a decent deal. I got some money, and I bounced. We both agreed to not speak on certain topics. Put it this way, I’m happier buying skate shoes than being on Axion. I was the first dude asked to be involved with them. But, once again, this may sound crazy, but it wasn’t for me.
Dustin: At this point, are you still hoping to progress in your career as a pro skater?
Brian: At this point it’s like a fresh new beginning. I just needed a break from the industry for a minute. I dipped back to New Jersey to lay low for a while. I’m still home now, just skating everyday by myself and with friends I grew up with. My current goals in skateboarding compared to when I first got on Plan B are different because now I have the opportunity to skate how I want to skate—which is now bringing me back to the old Love Park days. I am more motivated now to skate everyday, and try to push myself and progress in different areas of skateboarding.
Dustin: Who are your current sponsors, and have you been sitting on any footage that you plan to release to the public?
Brian: At the moment, I am getting product from DGK, L&K Clothing, Gold Wheels, and NJ Skateshop. As for footage, I am planning on releasing some of my footage that I haven’t used on Transworld.
Dustin: You had spoken to Patrick O’Dell and Epicly Later’d about your somewhat estranged friendship with Anthony Pappalardo. Since that episode, did Anthony contact you or have any communication regarding that interview?
Brian: Yeah that Epicly Later’d thing is dope. The Fred Gall one is fucking classic. And the Guy and Gino ones take you to what really goes on. I am amped Guy had it in him to speak the truth about real-life problems outside of skateboarding, and not just keep them on the low. He was always an inspiration to me as a young skater. Being a bit older now, I respect him so much more as a man for sharing all the issues he went through, and struggles he overcame. As for me speaking on Pappalardo for Epicly Later’d, they hit me up because me and him met in NYC when he was a 15 year-old skater from Long Island, and I was a 16 year-old skater from Jersey. We both ate, slept, dreamed, and lived skateboarding. We had a bit of competition going as young teenagers also. It helped us progress. We were best friends through skateboarding. I still haven’t spoke to, or heard from him in about six years. He didn’t try to reconnect with me after the episode. We just went separate ways, you know. As far as reconnecting, I guess it could happen. But only time will tell. I live 45 minutes from New York City, and still haven’t run into him out there. I lay low in my own way. Anthony does too in his own way. It would be sick to run into him, and just hang out one-on-one, and laugh about the old days. I feel like if I saw him today, it would pick up right where we left off—just cracking jokes and all that type of nonsense. It would be dope to skate again in New York.
Dustin: Alien Workshop’s Photosynthesis video captured Love Park, and Philadelphia at a very high point in the history of its skate scene. What are your impressions of the current Philly scene, and how has it changed since the skate media shifted its attention away from Love?
Brian: The days of filming for Photosynthesis were some of the best times of my life. Me and Bill Strobeck would film everyday, and Ryan Gee would be there for the photos. Those were the glory days. I moved out of Philly the day they fenced off Love Park, and started building all the planters and shit. It will never be the same. But you still have a new generation of kids killing it regardless. I basically just been skating in Jersey, Cali,, and roaming through the streets of Mexico the past few years. I haven’t really been around the new Love Park scene too much. But kids hit me up every day to come out there to skate Love. There is still a scene at Love. But the times have changed. It’s not the same Love Park I got to skate when I was younger. But everything changes.
As far as the media steering away from Love and Philly, it’s fine. Kids are still going to do their thing. Philly kids will always be dope. Philly—being as small as it is—had more popularity than New York City. Philly was the shit! Now you have every maniac in the skate world wanting to be a part of the New York scene. Since I’m just super happy to skate again with no skate politics in my life, I’m going to be cruising the streets of NYC and Philly again, even more than in the past. I guess you can say I’m back in the booth.
Dustin: After what you’ve been through in the past couple of years in the skate industry, how do you feel when you reflect on the relationships you’ve had with people involved with it?
Brian: Even at a young age, I could tell certain people were phony. So that’s just part of the game. Then you have the guys you’ve traveled with for years. Then, one day, you just stop talking to them. It’s a wrap. It doesn’t bother me. Then, you have guys that were your team manager when you were 17, 18 years old, or photographers you met at a young age, and you know this dude is cool as hell like you guys just click right off the bat. So it goes both ways. I mean I have people at DC that I traveled the world with for 10 years. The second I’m off DC, I never heard from them again. Some people would pull the old calling my friend Ian Reid and saying, “I heard Brian’s dead.” or this or that, “I can’t find him man, where the hell is he? What’s going on?” Me and Ian just sit back and laugh because if these so-called friends in the industry really wanted to speak to me, just call my family’s business, Wenning and Sons. It ain’t that hard, man. My brother and dad work there. I have met some great people through this industry, met some fake-ass weirdo’s too.
Dustin: Any final words or shouts out to people who have supported you throughout the ups and downs?
Brian: I’d like to thank Joe Castrucci for making this all happen. Chris Carter and Mike Hill at Alien / Habitat, Ken Block and Damon Way at DC shoes, Danny Way, and Colin McKay at Plan B, Fred Gall, Tim O’Connor, Danny Garcia, Kerry Getz, mi amigos. My brother John, my family, and my Dad for all of his support. My Aunt Jan in Arizona, Don La the Colombian, Eli from Gold—he’s my man on and off the damn board. Love you, Eli, thanks son. Stevie Williams for teaching me shit as a young kid on those tours. Brandon Biebel, Ian Reid ,my brother, only dude I fully trust. My grandfather, my uncles, New Jersey, thanks to Dan aka Boothman aka Booneman for his help always being there for me. My uncle Mike, and Dennis Wenning, my mother, and all my fans that hit me up all the time and keep me motivated to keep on keeping on. Last thing I have to say is I love skateboarding, and I’m not going anywhere.