Thrasher – William Elliott Whitmore

When I’m bored at work, and because I swapped nicotine delivery devices, I go around the corner to KCDC for a magazine when I would usually go for a cigarette (Silas rips, but I voted Busenitz).


Oh, hey, there in the rack is the latest Thrasher. I wonder if one of my articles ran. Better flip to the masthead…


Yup! I saw Becky’s name before my own. Then I noticed my buddy Clayton Blaha’s name, too!

zoundsI bought the mag and took it back to my desk for a photo-op. Becky did a great job with the Whitmore portrait. Portraiture is her forte, you know.

Here’s the Whitmore interview:

I really just want to say William Elliott Whitmore is the shit and be done with it. And while his being the shit is entirely true, I realize it’s not a very illustrative thing to say. Let me try again: Will’s a remarkable banjo-playing, guitar-plucking Bluesman from Iowa, and he’s got the raspiest, old-manliest voice you’ve ever heard tumble from the belly of someone barely 30. Will’s music comes from a place where Quarter Horses are loved and sold, where Rhode Island Reds are raised and killed, yet rusted Internationals still run despite their year. He’s from a countryside not Republican but Libertarian; where, as a kid, he found strange ways to ride into town. Some modern Blues musicians invent elaborate back-stories; for Will as a songwriter, though, he’s never needed to look further than to his own Back-40.

Will recently signed with Anti-, which is releasing this February his fourth album Animals in the Dark. While some folks in his boots might cash in the check and quit the rural life, Will opts instead to play Brooklyn (and thirty other places) before returning to his home right there in Lee County. In the following conversation, Will discusses what things like Thrasher and skateboarding can mean to a boy growing up in the sticks. Read to the end and you’ll believe me when I say William Elliott Whitmore is the shit—Peter Madsen

So what did the mag mean to you as a kid?

I’d pick up Thrasher every month at a little grocery store.


Yeah! I’d just devour it. Thrasher introduced me to all my now-favorite bands: Bad Religion, Public Enemy, the Minutemen, Bad Brains, stuff like that.  I’d read the mag and then go to this music store in a crumby strip-mall that had all these punk rock gems. It was just this whole new world of discovery. Thrasher always had a well-rounded music section. I hope they know how important they were to me, man.

They will now.

For me, talking to Thrasher is bigger than talking to Rolling Stone. Thrasher was the poor kid’s skateboard magazine, if you will. Thrasher was my bible.

As a kid, I was spooked by Thrasher. Did you skate your farm?


You didn’t skate your porch?

[Laughs.]  But when I was 13 I’d drive my tractor ten miles into this town Montrose to go skating.

Fuck yeah!

It was all flat-ground with a few curbs, some gaps. I would cruise down hills.

When did you get into skating?

It was probably the late-’80s. I remember very distinctly when the Mike Vallely double-kick with the farm scene came out. It was just so super innovative! I had a few friends who skated, and we all wanted that deck so bad.

Did you ever skate the park in Marshalltown when you’d visit your cousin Luke?

Yeah, it was good to go to Marshalltown and see some more pavement. But again, I was never so good that I could dominate a park. It was just fun to go anywhere and meet other skaters. It was back when if someone wore skate shoes, you’d be like, “oh, you skate!” You guys would be buddies.

You’ve said that Blues and Hardcore and Rap all come from the same place.

I got into hip-hop for the language of it. I’m kind of a language junkie about the way people can weave words together. I was interested how this Country stuff, like Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Hank Williams, Willy Nelson: these guys are just summing up their feelings the way they know how, same as how Talib Kweli or Mos Def do. Those connections always interested me.

People got really pissed off when they found out the Iron & Wine guy wasn’t from the sticks, but from Miami. What role should “authenticity” play in music?

I’m interested by how an environment affects a person’s creative work. In my case, I grew up on a farm shoveling horseshit and gathering eggs from the chicken house—so that’s pretty much what I know.  We would plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. It all relates to the cycle of life, and these are metaphors I enjoy. But sometimes guys just write great fiction. I mean, Bob Dylan didn’t ride the rails; he made a character for himself. That’s kinda cool, too. I don’t know if that’s any less authentic.

A while ago you spent a year in SF. Which part of town?

For a while I lived in a warehouse in the Fruitvale section of Oakland before I moved to the Tenderloin.

The TL.

Yeah, I was down in the shit at Jones and Geary. I used to go smoke weed and toss dice with the hobos. I wrote a lot of songs during that period. SF is one of my favorite cities in the world.

Are you still slanging maple at the merch table?

Nope, I’m sold out. This is a message out there for anyone who wants to make me a skateboard [laughs]. I was happy to have drawn the banjo graphic, and I’d love to do another run.

I bought one at the Record Collector in Iowa City.

That’s awesome.

You’ve always been open about your Libertarian upbringing. How do you break it down to folks?

Libertarianism is more of a philosophy than a political party. Basically, we’re pro-choice on everything. We just want people to live as free as they can, so long as they don’t hurt other people. You own your body so you can do whatever you want to it. These are pretty much just common sense rules for life. Be yourself, be cool, be kind to your fellow man—

—And don’t tread on me.

And don’t tread on me [laughs].


Clayton is one of those multi-media cats who does the interview and shoots the photos. Thrasher flew him from SF to LA to do this piece:clayton

NASA is a band of two people, one of whom, Sam Spiegel, is Spike Jonze’s bro (as in fraternal) and scored original music for Yeah Right! Pick up the latest Thrasher and Clayton will tell you the rest of the story.

Props Brudda!!!


4 Responses to “Thrasher – William Elliott Whitmore”

  1. […] the magazine yet, cuz some asshole bought the last one form KCDC, but you can check out the article here! These are a few out-takes from the […]

  2. Rebecca McNeel Says:


  3. Clayton Says:

    Thanks for the shout out, dude! Around the corner from KCDC? Sounds like ya’ll got it made.

  4. Yeah, dude. It’s pretty nice. I go skating everyday during my lunch break. Except when it’s dumping snow like it is now.

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