Josh Kalis is raw with no gimmicks. He does what he does consistently, and hasn’t switched things up since he first started getting coverage in the ‘90s. Kalis’s style is universal, and instantly recognizable. From Dallas, to SD, to SF, to Philly and NYC, to Michigan and Chicago, Josh has held it down from city to city, and state to state. In fact, he’s a local in more places than some skaters have visited. All of this gives Josh a unique perspective. He sees skateboarding through an unfiltered lens. He’s a purist, and unafraid to call it how he sees it. You’ve gotta respect that.
48 Blocks: I first remember seeing you at an Invisible demo in the Midwest back in the ‘90s. If I remember correctly, the rumor was that they picked you up in Texas. What’s the story behind that?
Josh: I met Jamie Thomas when I was living in Philly a year or two before I saw him in Dallas. I lived in Dallas for a minute, but got locked up for six months. When I got out, I heard Jamie was coming to Dallas. I linked up with him, hooked him up with some weed, girls, ect. Me and my homie were hanging out with him that night. But we weren’t really feeling him and his homie Kirk. Once Jaimie and Kirk were hooking up with the chicks, me and my boy started to walk out of the hotel. We were just going to bounce. Jamie opened the door and was like, “Yo,where you guys going?” I decided to stay and chill. The next day, he asked me if I still skated. I told him I didn’t even have a set-up. He hooked me up with an Invisible board, Ventures, Swiss, and Spitfire wheels. We went shredding for two or three days. I think I clocked two or three minutes of footage. He was super stoked. After he went back to Cali, he told me to meet him on this tour they were doing. I agreed. When I got on the trip, Jamie wasn’t on it. He had already quit. But I said, “Fuck it, I’m gonna go.” That’s pretty much how it went down. After I managed to get to Cali, he just transferred me to Toy Machine.
48 Blocks: How did you end up in SF and make the transition to Alien Workshop?
Josh: There was seriously so much shit going on at that time. After I got to SD with only the clothes on my back, I lived at Jamie’s house. Right across the street was the Alien house. I used to just chill, drink 40s, and play dominoes with Dyrdek, Clyde, Bird, John Drake, Pitre, Lenny, Bokma, Weiss, ect. It was seriously the craziest party house ever. It was such a better scene for me than Jamie’s. One time I was there and Dyrdek and them kept saying, “I heard you ride for the Workshop” over and over. I went back to Jamie and told him. I told him I think they were vibing me. I was going to fight all of them. Jamie’s advice was to ask them why they were vibing. So I went over there the next night and they said the same shit. I told them to chill. And if they were trying to vibe me out, we were going to throw down. Dyrdek told me to chill ,and if I ever wanted to ride for the Workshop for real to let him know. I raised my eyebrows like, “DAMN!”
On a trip to SF, I decided that was the place that I needed to be. You could skate and chill all day at the spot. So I got a couple roommates together and we got a sick-ass spot right on the corner of Geary and Fillmore. The apartment building was brand new. We got this chick I know from Michigan to have her dad co-sign. I made rent by selling boards and shit. I was getting shoes from Vans, Etnies, Dukes, and Duffs. I skated either the Vans or some adidas, and sold the rest to make rent. That shit doesn’t really fly so well today.
48 Blocks: What was the vibe like in SF back then? You weren’t from the city, did you experience the EMB vibe?
Josh: The vibe was exactly how I pictured it. It was also exactly the vibe that I was a part of in Dallas. Everyone was a dick. To me, that’s how it should be. I had to earn my street cred regardless of if I could skate or not. And I knew it before I got there. I understood that someone like me moving there wasn’t going to be instantly accepted. So I was prepared to deal with what was coming. And it came! First day at EMB, Jocko rolled up and wanted to skate my board. I knew he wanted to roll off with it. But I let him skate it. I told him if he jetted off with it, I would find him. I kicked him my board. He skated across the plaza, looked at me looking at him, skated it right back, then asked me were I was from and kicked it back to me. I don’t know if he was testing me or not. But every day I rolled down there, I was ready for that day’s test. I think my attitude, and the locals having the same mentality as myself gave me a pretty smooth transition. I got another one, more FTC-based though. I went into FTC with Drake Jones. I asked if I could borrow a board and pay it back when I got my box. The dude was like, “Who the fuck are you? You ain’t in the black book,” and straight peaced me out! Drake had to put it on his account. I finally made it in the black book at some point. But it was cool.
48 Blocks: Talk a little about Lenny Kirk and your friendship with him.
Josh: I met Lenny in SD. He was / is crazy as hell. Before he went religious he was borderline psycho. Me and him rolled hard as fuck. I was rocking a tech nine pinky ring, tech nine earring, and a gold front. Lenny would always rock corn rows, tats, and some ill camos. But he never knew when to back down. We had to roll past the Fillmore projects everyday. He would roll his window down bumping his system and mad dog all the thugs chilling in front of their buildings. I’d be like, “Roll the fucking window up.” He’d be like, “Nah, fuck them.” He was always looking to front on people. It was pretty funny. We were super good friends, but we almost fought on a daily basis. Somehow we never did.
Last time I spoke with him was maybe six months ago. He called me from prison. I was pissed because after he already did a few years, I spent two weeks skating with him in the city. It was tight! Then, he called to tell me he got locked up again. It sucked.
48 Blocks: You broke out to Philly and were a central figure during the legendary Love Park era. What made you decide to go East?
Josh: I basically started skating on the East Coast. I lived in Queens, NY with my mom for a while. Causing havoc in the city was the illest. Dodging people, scaring old people, ect, I loved it. My mom moved from NY to Philly. After some shit happened in Dallas, I had to bounce out of there. So I moved back in with my mom. I spent so much time downtown that she booted me out. I ended up living with Jerry Fisher, then Ricky Oyola. After some pretty crazy beef with Ricky, I moved back to Michagin for a minute, then back to Dallas, then SD (the time with Jamie). The “Josh and Stevie” Love days didn’t happen until the second time I moved there. That was after my stint in SF. I actually moved to Chicago after SF. I took my chick to Philly on a trip. That’s the trip I saw Stevie not skating and all that. I remembered how ill Love was when I lived there before, and decided right then. Philly, that’s where I want to be.
48 Blocks: So how did you go about getting Stevie back into skating?
Josh: I moved him into my house, gave him boards, and made sure he had shoes. We just fed off each other. I tried to get him on the Workshop. How sick would that have been? The dudes in the office just didn’t trust that he was going to put forth the effort. Damn, they missed out! I think I’m still kinda bitter.
48 Blocks: What memories stand out to you from that Love era?
Josh: Seriously, it was all so much fun. It was our version of EMB. Nothing has nor will ever have the progression that EMB saw. But we did our thing.
48 Blocks: Once Love was shut down, you relocated to Michigan and spent a lot of time skating Chicago. What made you choose to head to the Midwest as opposed to California where most of the industry is?
Josh: I moved to Michigan because my chick wanted to move there. We have a daughter, and didn’t want to put her into Philly’s inner city schools or some bunk-ass private school. So we went to Michigan where the public schools are good. Also my chick’s family lives there, and she wanted to spend some time with them. It was pretty tough for me. I’m not really feeling Michigan too much. Thankfully, Chicago isn’t very far away. Also, it has made me travel way more than when I lived in Philly. That’s always a good thing. But yeah, Michigan is boring. I do like the lakes though.
48 Blocks: You’ve lived in so many different cities, and traveled extensively. What are your top three, and why?
Josh: I honestly can’t give you three. I learned so much about life and respect living in Dallas. So I love that place. Philly gave me some of the best times skating that I could ever ask for. Same with NYC. I used to go to NYC every weekend. Chicago is the hidden treasure. After 11:00 PM, the city is yours. No bike cops. The people there are real as fuck. SF was one of my childhood dreams to make it out there, and not only skate, but to be accepted by the locals. Barcelona, same thing. For me getting accepted is more important than anything else. And all these cities gave me respect, and more than that, some of the closest friends. I consider them my family. That’s the tightest part about all of the cities that I’ve lived in. I can go to any of these cities, and I have a home with a full crew.
48 Blocks: You’ve been consistently putting out video parts for the last fifteen or so years. How often do you film?
Josh: I film quite a bit. It makes things fun. I don’t like to film just to sit on footy though. I honestly can’t stand video parts these days. People sitting on footage for fucking years. Just so they can have the “ultimate” part. Shit’s whack. Kind of fake if that makes sense. I like to get a grip of footy, then let it come out. I like to film while having fun with people. Trying to film tricks because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. Maybe it’s because I like mixtapes better than the fully produced album. I like my shit to come out regularly, and true rather than making some big production representing something that isn’t me on the daily.
48 Blocks: What do you do when you’re not skating?
Josh: I like to work on my cars. That’s pretty much my only hobby. I’m building a crazy 69 Camaro right now. Twin Turbo 1000hp. All modern suspension, wheels, breaks, ect. It will handle like a BMW. But it’s old school, but new school!
48 Blocks: Talk about being a parent and professional skateboarder.
Josh: It’s tight. It’s so much easier to raise a kid when you’ve been through so much. It seems natural for me to teach my daughter common sense. That, to me, is the most important thing to have. She gets to travel so much. Spain, France, coast to coast, ect. She gets to experience life through my eyes. When I leave on a trip, she doesn’t sweat it at all. She is so used to it. She actually gets excited when I leave. She gets to sleep in my bed. For me, I miss her. But when I talk to her she’s so cool about everything. Maybe I got lucky with a kid that’s pretty easy going. Or maybe my lifestyle rubbed off on her and she just gets it better.
48 Blocks: Marquise Henry was in your Mind Field part and in your Bangin’ clip. How often do you skate with him? Is he your new protege?
Josh: Not so much “protege,” but I’m backing this kid. He is a skater through and through. Hard to find these days. He’s got so much heart and respect for skateboarding. He doesn’t do it for the wrong reasons. He actually has fun skating. Coolest dude. One of my favorite dudes to skate with these days. Him and Matt Miller.
48 Blocks: Did you imagine your skate career would have this much longevity when you started out? Where do you see yourself in the future?
Josh: I never even think about longevity. Honestly, it feels like yesterday that I lived in Philly, and was going to NYC every weekend. It’s pretty crazy that it was so long ago. I really have no intention of slowing down. I feel like my skating is better now than before. Same amount of motivation, same amount of energy. There is still a bunch of things I want to do. So many tight-ass tricks to be done. The future for me is more skating.