One Week With A Madman
Lately, Mark Landvik has been surrounded by questions. None of which have to do with his snowboarding and all of which have to do with his sanity.
One Week With a Madman
Words and ?s / Cody Liska
A / Mark Landvik
Photos / Tim Zimmerman, Cody Liska
Lately, Mark Landvik has been surrounded by questions. None of which have to do with his snowboarding and all of which have to do with his sanity. What’s he doing cooped up in that house all day? Where did all of his friends go? What’s he spending all of his money on? Those dilapidated cars and trucks in his driveway? And those wooden crates of old, glass medicine bottles stacked next to another wooden crate, this one filled with rusty fishing reels – is he collecting antiques now? Is he still snowboarding? Or is he just a recluse, focused on constructing his own personal Xanadu, decorated and furnished with things of the past? All these question inevitably culminate into a universal "Is Lando okay?" Because "I heard he kind of lost his mind after he found out his girlfriend had been cheating on him with another dude, while some of his best friends knew about it, but never told him."
There's no easy answer to that question. Yea, the breakup uprooted and pivoted the course of his life, but it left him with a newfound sense of knowledge and self-awareness. “The best piece of advice I could give anyone is to utilize and focus on your mistakes. Take some time, right when you make them, and figure out why you made that mistake, why it’s bad, and how it can help you in your life. If you can understand that, and laugh at it, you’ll be laughing at stuff that used to make you fucking nuts,” Lando tells me with the cadence of a young Ted Levine.
The present fact is Lando is on the mend and in the middle of the most ambitious project of his life. Something that will either be a massive success or it will explode in his face. There is no in between. Because, when the numbers you're dealing with are in the millions and you're selling your house, it's sink or swim.
His imprint is Ngrained Inc. and, as far as I can gather, it's a network of likeminded artists. Woodworkers, steelworkers, bikers, motorcyclists, snowboarders, skateboarders, event coordinators, media outlets, non-profits... you'd be hard pressed to find a medium Lando isn't involved in.
I had my doubts. Mainly because Lando's a little crazy, even by Alaskan standards. "What remains to be seen is whether he's the good crazy or the bad crazy," I wrote in my notebook on the first day of the interview. The thing I kept having to remind myself was, you don't make it to where Lando is by leading a normal life with pedestrian ideas. You don't just end up in the biggest snowboarding films and traveling the premiere circuit by accident. And you definitely don't have outlandish celebrity experiences. "Every country and every city we went to [during the Art of Flight tour] Red Bull had this psycho vehicle for us. Custom to the country. Like a Rolls-Royce in London, an H4 stretch Hummer in Prague–when we rolled up to the premiere in Prague, they had the red carpet coming up to the door of [our H4], right? And there’s a handrail that went from the street to the sidewalk and the handrail was in the way of the red carpet. So, as soon as we pulled up, these dudes come out with grinders and cut off the handrail so we can walk straight onto the red carpet from our vehicle instead of having to walk around the rail. Meanwhile, there’s fireworks going off and shit," he tells me with an air of unbelief like he still can't believe it happened.
The idea of "normal" is a subjective one. In the week I spent with Lando he never left the house without a costume wig–mullets, butt-cuts, greasers, he's got boxes of them. “We’ll start a real drum circle, you know? We'll all put my costumes on. We'll build a fire and jump over it. We'll film it," he yells as the song Electric Pow Wow Drum fills the car with beating drums, chanting, and electronic beeps.
On more than one occasion, Lando slept on his face while both of his Persian cats, Gary and Kona, slept alongside him. One night, Kona slept directly on top of the back of Lando's head. Worried that he might have actually exhausted himself to death, I pushed him. "Uhhhh, fuuuck you wannnt," he moaned. Good, still alive.
This interview started with a phone call that lead to an impromptu trip to Bellingham. Lando was originally supposed to write his own article for this issue, so that's what I assumed the conversation would be about. However, not one word was said about that article. Instead, Lando insisted I get on the first flight out of Anchorage to Bellingham because the project he's working on is "psycho" – his word, not mine. His use of "psycho" is a sort of synonym for "bonkers" or "ridiculous." The thing is, he was right. The whole thing–the trip, his project, his life right now–IS psycho.
Tell me about Ngrained Inc.
It’s basically a collaboration of likeminded people who see potential in others and the cultures that are being lost every day, be it through art, music, skateboarding, snowboarding, anything. We’re just going on an adventure and finding out what we’re truly passionate about.
I don’t know of any other snowboarder, at my level, that has been his own agent for 15 years. Over the last 10 weeks I’ve been tapping into that and reaching out and networking and I’m like, “holy fuck, I’ve learned so much.” I’ve done all my own contracts, cut all my own deals since day one. And now I can do it for everyone [involved in Ngrained Inc.].
When did you get the idea to start your own business?
I hurt my knee and turned my garage into a woodshop. Eventually, Jamie Lynn and I wanted to start collaborating by putting his art on some woodwork. When he came over to do my 2015-2016 board graphic, I built him a room [at my house] so that he could come here and do art. Then Jamie introduced me to [artist] Matt French. French introduced me to [Mark and Carl Bjorklund at] Super Rat. Super Rat introduced me to Bill Woods and the rest of the guys over at Sodium Distortion. Bill Woods introduced me to Delvene [Manning at Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials]. He also introduced me to Erin [Sills] at Facebook. And all of it’s right here [in Bellingham]. That’s why I have to have everyone come here. I can’t take this anywhere. I can’t even get the Bjorklunds out of their fuckin’ garages to come over to barbeque with me. These fuckers cannot stop working. They’re awesome.
I’ve had a lot of these ideas and I just never followed through with them because of alcohol. Now that I’m not drinking, I can actually follow through with my ideas. Everything is moving fast and it probably scares some people. But I don’t really care what other people think. If they don’t want to understand it, that’s their beef.
I’ve forgiven [my ex girlfriend] for everything that happened, you know? Neither of us were perfect. When it first happened, it was impossible for me to comprehend. But now, down the line, I see that I wouldn’t have been able to figure out who I was if that didn’t happen. I had to stand on my own and either fall back or go forward. I forgave everyone who fucked me over. I forgave her, like totally pronounced my love to her. Said, “I don’t care what’s up with you and your boyfriend. If you want to come back and try to make this work, I don’t know where it’ll go.” But she wasn’t in a position to do that even though she was possibly still in love with me. Midlife crisis, dude. She tripped out and didn’t talk and left. Miscommunication. It started as this small, little thing that just needed to be talked about [in order to] nip it in the bud. Otherwise, it’s 5 years of your life in a relationship and this life you built with this person and all of a sudden it just disappears into thin air. Miscommunication, that’s been the downfall of every bad thing, every broken relationship, every fight in my life.
So, are you more open now?
I’m open as fuck. I’ll talk about anything. Before, I was bottled up. I just found out, throughout all of this, the reason why it was hard for me open up to the people I love the most. It all stems back to my dad and alcoholism and the problems I had with him growing up and [how] we never talked about it. I held it in for like 25 years. Once I figured that out, it was like the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. I told my dad everything.
And what’d he say?
He’s an old school dude. They don’t say much. But I told him, “I had to quit [drinking] because I saw your alcoholism. I knew at a young age that I would have to quit because I saw you as an alcoholic and I was embarrassed.”
You told him that?
Yea. I told him everything. Tell everybody everything. That’s the whole point. You can’t leave anything unsaid.
You probably shouldn’t tell a woman she looks horrible in her wedding dress…
Well, yea, of course not. You gotta be a decent person. Don’t be an asshole (laughs). That’s just life. Be nice to people.
How important is your sobriety to the success of your career at this point?
I wouldn’t be where I am without it. 100%. There’s no way I could do what I do right now if I was drinking. It’s a poison. I don’t like preaching to people about it because I was in their same position. And no one wants to hear from the dude who’s stoked on not drinking when you’re stoked on drinking. Plus, it doesn’t matter. You can’t preach to people to change who they are. You just gotta do what’s best for you and if those people are still there at the end of the day, then perfect. If not, your life changes, you change, you adapt.
After everything that went down, I just had to remove myself from everything. I had to figure out what the fuck made me happy anymore. 'Cause it wasn’t snowboarding by myself. I was like too good at it, you know? I feel like I can go film a video part today because of my mindset. When you’re at that stage–I’ve read some books about this shit–you don’t have the same endorphins you did when you were younger and learning. At a certain point, you’re just in it. You don’t even think, you just do it. Same went for drinking. It was easy. I loved it. Growing up with all my friends, that’s just what we did. We partied. And then I got into an industry that thrives on alcohol. Not to mention modern society’s status quo. If you’re in a social environment and you’re not drinking, you’re frowned upon in a lot of ways. It’s weird. They talk about peer pressure when you’re younger. I didn’t feel any peer pressure when I was younger. It wasn’t till I was older, after I stopped drinking, was it hard for me to hang out with people I called my best friends in the world. The biggest peer pressure I’ve ever felt came from my closest people. They felt awkward around me when I didn’t drink because they were used to me being the life of the party–Hank, or whatever they wanted to call me. They wanted that dude, they didn’t want me. And I didn’t want that dude. I wanted to find out what made me happy because the cycle of snowboarding and drinking didn’t make me happy anymore.
Do you think that maybe you’re just being sensitive?
No, because I’ve forgiven all these people. It might sound bitter to you or whatever, but I’m not bitter at all. The only way I’ve been able to move forward with all this–what happened to me with my relationship and all my friends–is by forgiving everybody. Me and [my ex girlfriend] have a great relationship now. And the reason we do is because she sees where I’m coming from. I wrote her and I said, “I just want you to have enough respect for me to know that I’m doing everything I can to be on top of this. I’m going to the doctor, I’m doing my blood work, and I'm going to my financial advisors.”
The only reason I’m able to do this is because I reach out to people. But nobody wants to talk to me. None of my sponsors even want to come [see what I’m doing]. I’ve got this insane business plan that’ll be great for everybody and save them a ton of money.
But you still get checks from your sponsors?
Oh, yea. For sure. But this is a whole new thing, a whole new venture where I’m bringing something to the table, not them. And I don’t care if anybody supports me or not. That goes for my sponsors, for everybody. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be bitter and lame to people, but I’m gonna follow my passion. If somebody doesn’t respect that or wants to constantly question me, I’ll just remove that person from my life because it’s a waste of time.
Is this a new development?
When I went to my therapist and told him my story, he said I was opening up a can of worms, but if I follow it through, I’m gonna be exactly where I wanna be. And that’s what’s happened. The can of worms wasn’t just me, it was my whole lifestyle. It just took awhile for me to see that. And that doesn’t mean that those are bad people, it just means that I want different things. It’s not selfish and it’s not a lame thing for me to do, it’s just what somebody does when they find what they’re truly passionate about and they have drive and they have everybody they need. Which is my family and my friends.
And you’re comfortable with all that?
Yea, I’m more comfortable and happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’m who I want to be. I’m finally who I am. People are scared for me. They say I’m taking on too much. I take on more and more everyday and it feels more gratifying every day.
But you barely sleep. That’s one thing that I’m personally worried about. You finally went to sleep at like 4 a.m. the other night and then woke up at like 7 a.m.
No, dude. I go to sleep. I took a 3-hour nap today while you took a 20-minute nap. So, see, you have this false impression. But then when Jamie [Lynn] comes to town, we’ll stay up for 41-hours. Like this one time we did art all night, went up to Glacier, lit up the skatepark with some halogens–it was barely skate-able, sketchy as fuck–and skated till the sun came up. We got some insane footage–Jamie’s painting all kinds of cool shit, we were wearing stupid costumes. Then we shot up to the top of Baker and Jamie pulls out his amp and starts playing some gypsy music for a while. Then we started bombing hills by this lake. Then Jamie bombed the entire fuckin’ Mt. Baker highway. It was gnarly, dude.
You don’t need money to have fun. Get your ass out there, any way you can. Snowboard or skate down the hill, hitchhike, walk up the hill until you get a ride, do it again. You don’t need money. It’s just a false impression. Like a consumer demon that the U.S. has created. It’s this ugly monster where people think that buying things makes them happy. But it just puts them more in debt. And they just keep piling on more and more shit. It’s a circle of spit that’s never ending.
Why haven’t you tried going to an AA meeting?
Because I don’t like the word “sober.” I don’t like what it implies.
What does it imply?
It’s different for everybody. For me, it’s just a fact. I know what the word “sober” means; it’s a word in the dictionary. But I don’t like the way people use it and how it’s represented in society. A lot of words don’t mean bad things, but they have negative connotations. In a social environment, people say the word “sober” as this kind of ugly thing. Like, “oh, you’re sober? That sucks. You must have sucked at drinking.” It’s seen as this negative thing when it should be seen as a positive thing. I’m so happy that I will never drink again in my life. But I can’t spend time telling people that because they’re gonna think I’m a kook.
You mentioned that you’re “finally who you are.” So, who do you think you truly are?
I’m me. Right now, this is me. Every day, this is life. This is evolution.
This interview appears in the latest issue of Crude Magazine. Issue 04 / Legacy focuses on the Golden Age of the Alaska snow and skate scene and the boardshop that made it all possible. For more on Issue 04, click HERE.