Skateboarding and music have enjoyed a long, often strange, but mostly complementary love affair. Whether it was the buzz-sawing guitars of HC punks JFA rattling the deck of a vert ramp in the 80s, or the thumping bass of Gang Starr adding a needed backbone to a street-skate-heavy VHS in the 90s, sessions have always been enhanced by a well-placed soundtrack. 

With a high level of creativity involved in both activities, it’s no surprise that there are people who excel at both. I met up with with two local musician-skaters for a sesh in DT Jax to see just how these hyphenates divide their creative time between composing and skating. 

Interviewees: Ben Clifton of ethereal Doom Metal outfit Umanita Nova (left) and Malik Sanders who makes Hip-hop under the name, The Black Toilet (right)

What came first for you: skateboarding or music ?

BC: They both fell into place around the same time. I was introduced to most of my favorite bands through skate videos and what others skaters I knew were listening to. 

TBT: I’ve always had a love for music, but I started to make it right around the same time that I started to skate. 

Do you divide your time between the two equally? Or focus more on one or the other?

TBT: I was just thinking about this before the interview, actually. As of late I haven’t been able to leave my room due to how close I’m getting to achieving my desired sound. So as of now, music has taken the forefront. 

Ben, your band Umanita Nova is made up entirely of skaters. Was this intentional or happenstance?

BC: It just happened like that. I’ve been skating with our drummer for close to 20 years. It’s honestly the first band I’ve been in that’s an all-skater band. I love it! It definitely helps with killing time on tour.

When on the road, does Umanita Nova seek out parks or spots to skate?

BC: Yes, rather frequently. Aside from the long drives, you spend all day in a city trying to figure out something to do before the show. It helps make the days go by faster. 

And Malik, you recently released something new, could you tell us about it?

TBT: “Rain’s Aroma” is a project released by my spirit animal QUANZA. I’ve really spent time getting to know him. He focuses on the beats while I spend all of my time writing music. But you will never see us in the same room. One part is out on SoundCloud and the other is out on Bandcamp.

Sounds cool. Do you prefer to make your own beats or to collaborate with others?

TBT: When I first learned how to make beats I would try to only use my production on the songs I release. But recently I’ve been spending an extensive amount of time with my group ComputerFood. Everyone in the group is extremely talented, So I had a change of heart and I’m now open to all collaborative work. 

And Ben, you’ve got a few side projects, as well. 

BC: I’m currently involved with two other solidified projects but I’m so scatterbrained that I have many ideas for other things. One is Colonial Wound, a heavy chaotic band with a friend of mine from Yashira. The other is a mathy and jazzy project called Prinze Jr. It was put on hiatus for years until we decided to revitalize after Seth Howard (the original drummer of the project) had passed. SPH Forever.

Favorite spots to skate in Jacksonville? Favorite venues to play in Jacksonville?

BC: I’m a huge fan of the spots around Springfield. I’m at the Block Skate Supply to skate the back courtyard at least twice a week. My favorite venues are Justice Pub, Nighthawks, and I sure do miss Burro Bar, Lomax, and the backyard Underbelly. 

What is the strongest correlation you find between your music and skate style?

TBT: When I’m skating I try to make sure I’m remembering to have fun; sometimes frustration gets in the way of that. So whether I’m skating, mowing a lawn, or making music, I try to make sure that I’m having fun. 

What does the future hold for both of you, musically?

BC: The future is bright and vast. Tour, Record, Tour, Repeat. It’s a vicious cycle but it’s a necessary bit of masochism for the 30 minutes on that stage. We are currently recording a new EP called Trembling Earth that’ll be out this winter through my production company, Menhir Productions. It’s about our beloved home in the Okefenokee Swamp and the turmoil caused to it by the State.

TBT: I plan to release more instrumental projects in the next week or so. My new album AlbumTitle is almost complete. And I’m also doing a full LawnChair (@lawnchair2) relaunch in the next month.

This interview originally appeared in Void Magazine, Vol. 10, Issue 6.