It was just a couple days into the new year that two things dawned on me while driving up to San Francisco for a five-day, pink-footed, kick-ass blitzkrieg in the streets: 1) I now had a legitimate squad of rippers repping the StrangeLove brand; and 2) I once used to be an editor* of the world infamous skateboard mag Big Brother. How do those two relate? Well, it reminded me that, shit, I should probably slip back into my half-ass skate journalism role to interview a couple of the guys, seeing as we have this blog that should be fed a lot more than it has been of late. This was, of course, entirely contingent on my hit-or-miss ability to get decent-ish skate photos** throughout the trip. Fortunately Max had never been to SF before and was so overjoyed to be out of the seasonal Wisconsin deep freeze that he was throwing himself at anything and everything each and every day, affording me relatively decent Vegas odds in terms of usable-ish photos. That said, here's Hank… I mean, Max! —Sean Cliver
So which is it, Max or Hank? Because I’ll be honest, I was confused as fuck at first and didn't know what the hell to call you.
My name is Max, but my nickname is Hank. I was probably 19 or 20 when my friends started calling me Hank. It was during the flip phone era, and I was at my friend joshs having a barbecue when I got a text message saying “hank?” My friend Tim had tried to text me “ganja?” but his flip phone autocorrected it to “hank.” So after that all my close friends always called me Hank.
When did you start skating? Do you remember your first setup?
My dad was into all things wheels, so he had tons of bikes and a Variflex skateboard. When I was super young, I was more into riding bikes, but I would ride his skateboard too. But then I remember my sister got a Girl deck, so I was always using her board and that made me want my own and I want to say around nine or ten I got my first board in 1998. My parents took me to Phase 2 skate shop In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I got a Zoo York board with Venture trucks and Spitfire “Purple People Eater” wheels… pretty sure I had Black Panther bearings, too. I feel like got that Zoo board purely on the graphic, but now I can’t even remember what it was.
Who were the skaters in Milwaukee then that had an influence on you?
I feel very fortunate to have grown up with lots of really amazing skateboarders in my city between my older sister’s friends who would skate out front of my parents’ house to people I still surround myself with today. I would skate to the skate shop every day I could. The guys that were the legends/idols of my youth are still my close friends today… Bill Kaschner, Pat Forrester, Jon Rockafellow, and Ben Vance, just to name a few. These guys would always tell me what VHS skate videos to watch, what boards to ride, etc. My friend Alex and I would skate all over the east side of Milwaukee looking for those dudes.
Do you hibernate in the winter or where do you go skate?
Having lived in Wisconsin my whole life, I’ve gotten pretty used to the insane winters we get subjected to. Fortunately I have a place to escape the snow and below freezing temps we get for months at a time, because in 2006 my close friend Bill opened up Cream City skatepark. It’s an amazing indoor park and I go there as much as possible after work and on weekends. But after the first month of being indoors I can’t resist the urge to street skate. So as long as it dry—or wet, haha—I ’m down to go outside. Just have to throw on some extra layers. Skating when it’s below freezing really makes you appreciate nice weather. Slamming on frozen ground is the best.
Is it true you were one of the Beez kneez? What was all that about for those who have no idea what I’m even asking about?
It is true! In the early 2000s there were a lot of super serious handrail videos coming out, so a few my friends wanted to make a video that was the complete opposite of that. The video was called Beez and consisted of fake tricks, movie props, weird music, cats partying, obscure movie clips, Pizzy and Chris Cole cameos. It kinda became a skate video cult classic and I joined the crew later on. Once Instagram came along, we thought there would never be another Beez video—you know, since the internet is filled with weirdness—but in 2019, after a decade of on and off goofing around, Wazpz, the brainchild of Josh Ellis, came out.
Why do you insist on saying “just one more time,” when you know you’re gonna keep on trying until you make it?
Haha! I’m the kind of person that only wants to try a trick for a short period of time, so when I can’t land a trick quick or I’m getting scared I usually start to throw the “Just one more time.” The more I say it, the more I’ll end up trying it, because I don’t like to give up for the most part. That will go on until I either land the trick or have a meltdown.
Do you have a fetish for handrails with less than 4-feet of run-up?
I most definitely do. For me, the less run-up I have means the less time I have to think about what could go wrong. I prefer skating things that aren’t perfect. It helps keep my brain distracted. Fortunately Milwaukee is filled with imperfect spots and ground, so it keeps it fun and interesting. The worse it is the better is how I feel about skating.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve encountered while skating in the beer city?
A few years ago several friends and I were skating on the north side of Milwaukee, a part of the city that is known for being on the rougher side. It was your typical Saturday afternoon, just skating around looking for spots, and all of a sudden there are police sirens going off everywhere. When we got in the car to head to another spot, we hear on the radio there is massive rioting happening all over the north side and we just happened to be in the middle of it all. People were burning down gas stations, shooting at the fire department and police… it was all over the news the next day.
What’s your day job when you’re not shredding the gnar?
I work fulltime as a finish carpenter for a restoration company. We do fire and water damage, and I mainly do interior trim carpentry and tile. I work with one of my best friends who also skates, so it doesn’t usually even feel like work. I get to see so many weird things at my job, from millionaires’ condos to extreme poverty.
Do you remember what it was like during the whole Jeffrey Dahmer deal in Milwaukee?
I was super young when all the Jeffery Dahmer stuff was going on, so I only heard more about him in my teens. One of my art teachers in high school said she sold him a pair of shoes. The neighborhood Dahmer would hang out in had many spots we would skate. Down the street from a bar where he would go to pick his victims there was a flat gap we called the “Dahmer gap.”
Do you even run your own Instagram account?
I do now, but I didn’t for a long time. I would send my friend Josh pictures from my flip phone and he would upload and run my “fake” account. Josh continued this for a while, but once I got a smart phone and started to film and make videos I decided to take over. I joined the internet vortex about three months ago, and it’s my first time using any form of social media. It’s weird!
Was the StrangeLove trip to SF your first time there? Any particular highlights for you?
The StrangeLove trip was my first time out in California. I couldn’t have asked for a better first trip. The crew and weather was amazing and it was great to meet and skate with everyone else on the StrangeLove squad. I instantly felt a part of the crew. Seeing and skating those hills was a life changer for me… that was my first real hill bomb and it got my adrenaline pumping so insane. And getting to skate a lot of the spots I grew seeing in skate videos was like a dream come true—just doing a carve over a bench at the China Banks was personal life hammer for me. Unfortunately there was an ice rink at EMB, so I could only skate around it. There is so much going on in that city that I love. Between all the crazy, trolled out people to the amazing cityscape, I was finally was able to understand why it’s the skate Mecca that it is. Also getting to eat some of the best burritos of my life!
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the quality of a knock off Hypervolt to the real deal?
I give the knock-off Hypervolt a 2-out-of-10. The knock-off is about as powerful as my cellphone vibration, haha, but after getting a taste of the real Hypervolt on the SF trip it’s hard to settle for anything less. That being said, Hyperice, you wanna do a StrangeLove collab? We’re ready!
On a scale of 1-10, how big of an idiot do you think I am for getting snookered by the Chinese? You can be brutally honest. I deserve it.
You sent us the magical link, but I think we all are 10-out-of-10 idiots for buying them. We were all too excited about the amazing deal to notice it wasn’t the real thing. I think it was Timmy [Johnson] or Rob [Sissi] that were the first to notice something was up, but the internet got us. The best part is I got some of my family members to buy them, too.
Goddamnit. Looks like I went to 11 on this one.
* True story. I started out writing bits 'n' bobs for the mag in 1992 and eventually took the editorial throne in 1997—right when Larry Flynt Publications, Inc. acquired the title. This was also the time that several people say the mag started to roll downhill, but that criticism is mainly mired in the fact they could no longer see bare boobies or dicks… not that a huge percentage of our readers wanted to see bare dicks, mind you, but it was the censorship-free principle that mattered most to them—but especially so when it came to the boobies (never mind the fact that we still tried to teach them how to smoke crack and other naughtiness during the LFP years).
** For the record, I"m not a skate photographer. I repeat, I am not a skate photographer. My style is best described as "click 'n' wish," meaning I don't know exactly what I'm doing, but I sure do hope to god for the best. Atiba Jefferson I am not.