An Interview with Seth Ethier

The humble grind has come a long way since the day man first realised he could slide his trusty freestyle nubs on coping, and despite the best efforts of killjoy architects and town planners, few surfaces remain unpegged. One of today’s foremost practitioners of the grind is Seth Ethier—a chap from New England with a penchant for Butcher grinds and mathematical rail/ledge configurations.

Seeing as we’ve just managed to get a few copies of Seth’s new video, Today I Got Time, here’s an interview with the man himself about obscure grind set-ups, the world of real estate and food.

Photos by Kyle Richards-Connolly, Javaun Crane-Bonnell, Hikaru Funyu and more. Interview by Sam.

What’s been going on over in America lately? Are things still ‘locked down’ over there?

It seems like America is a mess as of late due to the election, the war against police, and obviously the coronavirus. I’m not sure if it’s like this in any other country but it’s hard to see a future since the pandemic has happened. I feel like people’s pockets are starting to hurt—the whole financial state is still an open cut in my eyes. 

The whole thing seems like a real mess. Am I right in saying you work in real estate? What does that involve exactly?

Yes, I do. I work primarily in the North End neighborhood in Boston doing rentals. It’s a big rental market. We have about 150 turnovers every September. We pretty much find renters for landlords who go through our office.

Is it pretty competitive? Do you have to sell a certain number of houses each week?

It is competitive, but I work in a family-style office so there’s really no quota. I kinda just do what I can. I have about three to four incomes so it’s a part-time gig for me.

What other jobs have you got? Working four part-time jobs sounds like a task.

I work in a pizza place serving some nights. I work a few days for a lawyer handling his invoicing. Also I might rent you an apartment, collect a fee and then install an A/C six months down the road for $50. There’s some people who do property management in the real estate office I work in, so I get a bunch of small odd jobs if contractors don’t want to waste their time. I just did a job for $200 cleaning out a backyard took me like 3 hour to 4 hours total. Quick money. 

Has the virus stuff affected the real estate world much? 

Yes it has. Many people are leaving the city and moving to the suburbs. Now that so many people can work remotely there’s no need to pay so much for a small place with no room—they can go and live in a house with a driveway and a back yard. I’m not sure that the market will come back as strong as it was for at least a year or two, but you never know.

Do people in your profession ever sleep in the houses they’re meant to be showing people around? 

Lol—no… at least not that I know of. The joke does pop up from time to time….. “I’m just gonna sleep here until it rents.”

I imagine you must get to see some intriguing stuff if you’re going round houses all day—what sort of stuff goes on?

Yeah you could say so. I mean I work in a crazy neighborhood—“a good crazy.” It’s all first and second generation Italians. It’s like a small town in the heart of a big city, if that makes sense. It might be a Massachusetts thing but townies are nuts… I’m one of them. Everyone knows everything—who beat who up, who’s doing this, who’s doing that. Other than that it’s the typical stuff you’d expect when dealing with rental properties.

How would you define ‘a townie’? That term exists over here too, but I think it’s used a little differently.

Man, I don’t know, it’s a lifestyle, like even down to the accent and body posture. I know everywhere there’s townies but in Massachusetts it’s a different breed. Everyone kind of looks out for each other but at the same time will be quick to fight you if they feel disrespected. Everyone here be referring back to their brother, mother or sister in every conversation. A lot of people work for their father’s construction company. We love booze. 

On my dad’s side of the family it’s super townie. My aunt and her brother live in the same house along with my cousin. And my dad lives above his mother, my grandmother, in another house a few streets away. For anyone who’s reading this, you gotta come spend a weekend in Southbridge with me, or a week in the North End, and you’ll understand. You might become a townie.

Is there a townie uniform? What’s the head to toe outfit? 

It can vary, in the ‘70 to the ‘90s tracksuits were big. Modern day: a sports cap or scally cap, a sports t-shirt or sweatshirt or a neon green construction company t-shirt or sweatshirt. Jeans or work pants. Work boots or dad Nikes. 

Some of them also got a beat red face from drinking. Glad I’m not at that point yet. Townies come in all shapes, forms and sizes but you know one when you hear them.

Moving onto more relevant stuff, when did you get into riding? What set you off with it?

I’ve always rode a bike—from when I was a kid going camping with my dad and his friends who had children (who are still my close friends to this day). We’d make dirt jumps and what not around the campground.

I got my first real bike in 2001, I think I was in first grade—it was a Hoffman Deebo. I didn’t start taking it seriously until about sophomore year in high school, and even then it was a low serious. I was more into girls and getting wasted. But after I graduated high school that’s all there really was to do. I didn’t want to be the 19 year old at a high school party.

What riding videos were you into growing up? 

Anything Animal really. I was late to the game on riding vids. The first Animal video I really watched was the road trip one—the one with all the instrumentals where Van Homan has a line in the beginning at that school. I got that Animal DVD from a guy working at our local shop, Easter Boarders. He brought up Lino and then told me he was from Southbridge (I’m also from Southbridge), so I was kinda mind-blown.

Then I came across his Can I Eat part and it literally pointed out Southbridge on a map, and I lost my mind—I think I was like 12 or 13. But I looked up to all the Animal guys since that day.

What was it about the Animal videos that grabbed you? Why do you think you were drawn to them instead of a Shadow Conspiracy video or something?

The swag was there. The riding looked like someone walking down the street with swag. The rest of the other companies… I don’t know, they just didn’t have it.

Do you remember the first rail you did? Feel free to give us a full play-by-play run-down of this moment.

I stayed away from handrails for a long time until I came across this small one in Boston back in 2013—I was probably 19yrs old. It was pretty light work honestly, I double-pegged it first try and felt comfortable, then crooked it three tries later. I’ve always kind of been shook of handrails unless it’s the perfect one. Even now honestly there has to be a ledge next to it—safety measures.

You’ve got a pretty unique riding style, which is pretty rare these days. Where do you think this came from? What influenced you?

It came from watching the Animal videos and the first couple of 90East videos, and then obviously riding with 90East. I don’t got much tricks either, so I kinda let the spot do the heavy lifting—honestly it just makes more sense to let the spot do the riding.

You’ve done a lot of intriguing rail/ledge moves. What’s your process for working those out? You look relatively relaxed considering how much of a headache that sort of stuff can be.

“I do feebles” lol. It’s an inside joke with the people in the video. Nah, rail/ledge tricks are more or less feebles. Sometimes it’s scary but I just jump at the set up and hope for the best. Sometimes I gotta use riding science to make it work. Sometimes I walk away a complete failure and question why I even attempted the set-up.

Is there any grind configuration you’re still looking for? What’s the dream arrangement?

I kind of did one in my last section—a curved 60/40—but I wish I could have done it better. I got kicked out as I started to figure out how to get around. A 60/40 gap 60/40 would be cool too. There’s endless set-ups around the world so I’m sure there’s more configurations out there I’d just have to bump into the spot and think for a second.

What’s the secret to long and smooth butcher grinds? Do you not wear your pedals down dead fast?

Yeah my pedals go quick and I always forget to only use one side of the pedal. I probably started doing that trick when I was in high school so it’s probably natural. Besides feebles, smiths and ice-picks it’s like the fourth grind I learned. Shout out to Butcher. I think he has the biggest influence on my riding without me even noticing it to be honest, a couple years ago it kinda hit me. Like everyone else I was quick to watch an Edwin, Tom or Vinnie part.

What riding videos do you watch these days? With all the stuff that’s around now, what stands out to you?

Not much. Strangeways 4 and the new Skapegoat project. I just enjoy watching the art of the filming and editing and the ideas behind these videos.

Maybe a slightly boring question, but what are your thoughts on riding these days? Was there a golden era, or are older riders just bitter and twisted?

In my eyes the golden era was 02 to 07/08. That riding era is what caught my eye. Riding now, I don’t know—it’s kinda wack and partly I blame the internet. But if you avoid the wackness it’s like it’s not even there. I think it’s more about the rider than the riding. 

I’m obviously into ‘street riding’, but even some people who are portraying the ‘street concept’ are corny, because it’s fake in my eyes. Jumping into a storm door isn’t street… and you either get that or you don’t.

Yeah a lot of this stuff is treated as a gimmick. Your new video is a real treat. Was there any particular feel or theme you were going for with that?

I don’t know if I’m going to explain this right, but my theme is kind of like a vlog—but over three years and not be corny. A vlog is pretty much your day in my eyes, just with mad unneeded talking into the camera and stupid shit to make you more famous. It’s just riding at the end of the day. I have other reasons why I came up with the name Today I Got Time but that’s part of it. 

The video also subtly goes from Day to night and the b-roll is riding through traffic and shit that would normally happen throughout the day of riding.

It’s cool you managed to sort a premiere this year—how did you manage that? 

I feel like one of the best parts of making a DVD is the premiere, so that was high on my list of things to do. It’s like a big party and I like to party. I picked Philly because it was in the middle for the people that were in the video—most of the crew lives in NY, NJ and PA. I bought a projector and just set it up at a DIY skate park. Shout out to Steve at 215 Berks Street bike shop. He definitely picked up my slack and made the premiere perfect. 

What do you think makes a good video? 

I think if everyone’s on the same page and into the same shit more or less you’ll make a good video. Not everyone is into drinking or smoking or doing party favors, but if you all have the similar idea of the bigger pictures the chemistry will be there.

You were over here in England a few years back. What did you think of this place? How did it differ from America? And were there any similarities you were surprised by?

Yes I really enjoyed it. Seems super similar all around. There were obviously some differences but not much that stood out other than the accent. I live in New England if that makes any sense lol.

Jake wasn’t a fan of the English food—but he’s obviously wrong. What were your thoughts on it? Do you ever find yourself hankering for classic English grub? 

Lol I enjoyed it. I liked that you could get falafel anywhere it seemed. Sandy brought us to one of the best Indian food places I’ve ever been to. We also had great fish and chips. It was a cool experience because we walked in and after a couple of minutes of being there they only played 90s NYC hip-hop. They caught on quickly we were from the East Coast. Also the waitress definitely had a crush on me—or maybe I was just feeling my self lol… it’s ok I hadn’t started seeing my wife yet lol. I’m also a fan of english breakfast.

One of life’s wonders. What else are you into outside of riding? 

I’m into rap—all types, 90s and new school—I see it for the art. I like to make money anyway possible, working smarter not harder. Chilling with my wife and eating her cooking. Getting fucked up with my friends and cracking jokes. I also like being in different neighborhoods around cities, not riding just seeing what is. Also trying all types of food.

What food are you into? Do you have any specialities?

As of late I’ve been dabbling with seafood. I really enjoy swordfish. I used to hate seafood growing up but now I’m a big fan. I love Italian food but at this point I wouldn’t really have a choice—my wife is 100% Italian and has only been in the USA for five years. She’s a great cook and has made some of my favorite dishes which  I didn’t even know were possible—like a zucchini-based sauce or pesto—shits fire. 

She’s vegetarian—right a vegetarian Italian how does that work? Her mom still be tryin to get her to eat meat sauce on Sunday when she was living in Italy, but she’s opened my eyes to many non-meat dishes because of that. Obviously Caribbean food is amazing and is in the top three favorites.

I’m also pretty intrigued about your money making skills as it’s something I’m terrible at. Do you have any money making/saving tips for our readers? What should they be investing in?

Yes—more than one income is key. I use certain incomes for certain things—one income for rent, one for bills, one for spending and one for saving. Invest in something and that income will work itself.

Helpful tips there. I think I’ve run out of questions now. Any wise words to end this with?

Thank you Sam and Clarky for the opportunity to do this interview. I enjoyed this one because I got to explain more than the riding side of things. Shout out Lino, Webster Jake and 90East—I’d probably be townieing it up in Southbridge or Oxford if it wasn’t for them. 

Also big shout out to Skapegoat Projects—I’d probably only have five copies of the DVD to sell if it wasn’t for Bob.

#freezeeeky till it’s backwards.

Today I Got Time is available here.

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