For our latest On Rotation music interview, we spoke to Switchmade’s CEO, Micky Papa. Like many skateboard pros, Micky is always on the grind. Whether it’s dialing in his super tech tricks, educating himself on topics beyond skateboarding, and making most of his time this past year to earn his certification as a nutritional advisor. To top it all off, Micky was recently introduced to the official Canadian Skateboarding 2021 National Team. Learn more about Micky as he informs us on his favorite music, early influences that shaped his taste today, and stream a custom curated playlist now playing on Dew Tour’s Spotify Channel.

What are some of your current favorite songs you are listening to?
Well, I’m all across the board. I like to listen to a lot of different types of music. A lot of rap and hip hop, but then also I love classic rock. I like EDM a lot too, but I didn’t include any for this playlist.

Looking at your playlists here, you got some A$AP Trinidad, Kendrick, and even some Will Smith.
If you know me, you know I love Will Smith. The Big Willie Style album was my jam, dude! When I was young, I had this paper route that was supposed to be for adults only, like kids couldn’t apply for it. I got my mom to put her social in and say that she was doing it, but I would do it. It was pretty long and tough because it was on the side of this mountain, and I would do it. I would go to the bank, and I cash my check and the CD store, I feel like this sounds ancient to some people, but the CD store was right beside the bank, and I would buy a new CD every time. I’d buy one CD, and put some money in the bank. Big Willie Style happened to be the CD at the time like they’re promoting it, and I was like, ‘who’s this guy?’ I bought it, and I had my Sony Walkman and just played that album, over and over and over. So I’ve always loved Will Smith.

Oh man, those times were fun when CD stores were still a thing.
Yeah, and back in the day, you didn’t know if the songs were good on the CD. You just knew it came out, and if you heard something on the radio, those were tight, but you couldn’t stream it and see what’s on there. You had to buy it and see what’s on it.

So who introduced you to rap and hip hop? Was that just what was playing around you when growing up?
I had an older brother, and he listened to a lot of Tupac and stuff. It’s just kind of was in the culture, I think too. With skating, you just get introduced to it by everyone. I was always the young kid—I feel like everyone was the young kid in their group of friends who were being influenced by all the older skaters like, ‘Oh, this is the new jam!’ or like this new album just came out or whatever.

So growing up and skating with your brother and older crew, were they more into hip hop than rock at the time?
Yeah, and that’s the thing, my dad loved classic rock. I grew up listening to classic rock. So hip hop was something new and exciting. As I was getting into skating, it was like the immersion of the culture. I love skating, so I was like, ‘what’s up with this music? Oh, you guys listen to Ice Cube, NWA, all right, cool!’

My dad was big into The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, CCR, just pretty much all that 70s music, he’d be bumping in his truck. So I just got a taste for that when I was super young. Then I started playing guitar, too, so all those songs became brand new again. I learned how to play the riff from songs, and it was all fresh and exciting to me.

Rad, I didn’t know you played guitar. Did you get into that out of your interest?
I’ve gotten into so many different hobbies and things because I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and it rains eight months out of the year. With no indoor skate park so that l would skate parking garages for like, an hour a day at most, nobody wanted to skate and get all wet trying to get to the parking garage. So you develop an interest in other hobbies and one day, I was like, I’m going to play guitar. I just picked up things here and there.

I can play some of these songs that I grew up listening to and jam out. I wanted to talk about this one song specifically because it’s such jam if you haven’t heard it. It’s called The Hurricane by Bob Dylan.

Okay, does that song hold a special place for you?
Yeah, so for people reading this, The Hurricane is about this guy Rubin Carter who was this boxer and was the best. This was back in the day, and the times are way more racist even than they are now. But he got framed for murder, and the song explained the story of Reuben “The Hurricane” Carter. It talks about how humble he was and that boxing was his craft, and that he didn’t even like to hurt people. In the song, it’s says, ‘it is my work, he’d say, and I do it for pay’ and it’s just talks about how he’s the best damn boxer there ever was. He got framed for triple murder and was put in jail. The story as I remember it, my dad told it to me a long time ago, but Reuben Carter is this man with so much integrity that when he went into jail, he went in with a suit on, and they told him to take off the suit, and he said I’m not taking off the suit, because he knew who he was. He’s like, I don’t deserve to be in here, I’m a man of integrity, and I wear a suit, and that’s what I’m going to be, and that’s how I’m going to stay. So they throw him into solitary confinement for months, he comes out, they’re like, take off the suit, and he still refuses to take off the suit and is thrown back in there. His philosophy was that if you can’t take anything from me, then you can’t affect who I am, my mood, anything like that. So you can’t break me. So he’s like, I’ll wear my suit in solitary confinement the whole time. Bob Dylan would play private shows in jail for him. It’s just such an amazing story. There’s a movie about him. It’s a great song. You got to check it out.

I’ll have to give it a listen after this interview, but that’s an interesting and gnarly story.
Yeah, dude, I remember watching the movie for the first time and dropped a tear. I was like, this is moving me. it’s hitting me right in the heart. It’s a great song too.

on rotation Micky Papa
Photo Credit: Ferra

Looking back at your playlist, I see you also have a song here by Bill Withers. I know he’s from the 70s, right?
Yeah, Bill Withers, his song Use Me, if I’m not mistaken, Chico Brenes’ used that in a DVS skateboard video part. That’s also from one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s called Poolhall Junkies; it has Christopher Walken in it, and I just love that movie. Have you seen it?

Yeah, I’ve seen it. It’s been a while since I’ve last watched it, but it’s a good one.
I remember he’s walking around the pool table all suave, and he’s just shot after shot getting into his groove. This song [Use Me by Bill Withers] is playing, and when I heard and saw that combination, it’s been my favorite song since then.

That reminds me of another question. Are there any skate videos that you watch growing up that influenced you because of the music?
Yeah, I mean, some of these songs in the playlist are from skate videos like All Along The Watchtower. I’m a huge Jimi Hendrix fan, more so just the person he was like, his philosophies. But All Along The Watchtower is just a masterpiece. It was in Almost Round Three in Greg Lutzka’s part, and I got that video for Christmas. I watched that part over and over and over again. I was like, dude, this guy can flip into anything. This song is so sick, and this whole video is rad. It had a big influence. I was super excited about it.

How do you go about choosing songs to use for your video parts?
It’s hard with music, and I don’t always get a say. People will be like, ‘oh, you got to use this or this [song] would be good.’ A lot of time I’m not involved in that, but you know, I’ll have some picks, and they’ll be like we can’t use that because that’s going to cost so much money.

Unfortunately, I feel like that’s the part that makes the whole piece memorable is the combination of tricks and music together, but I like a lot of rap. I like hip hop for skating a lot, like up-tempo songs, but I also like indie rock, too for skating. I feel like it’s different, and sometimes you can create a unique piece.

If you could pick any song and had all the money in the world to pay for it, what song would you choose?
I was just thinking that in my head. I couldn’t even tell you because, say if I were to name a song, somebody back in the day before all the music cred probably used it. I used Miss You by The Rolling Stones in like a Mag Minute way back in the day. I saw anybody use it, and then someone was like, ‘dude, Mark Johnson used this song.’ How did I not know Mark Johnson used that song? So it’s hard. I wish I had an answer for that one.

That question stumps a lot of people. But yeah, you bring up an old topic and unwritten rule in skating on how you can’t reuse a song that someone else already had a part to.
Yeah, there’s such a saturation of good skating coming out. I feel like good music is harder to find, at least for me. Especially with old music, there’s a finite supply of classics out there, and the skating never ends.

on rotation micky papa
Photo Credit: Ortiz

Do you ever listen to music with headphones while skating?
Yeah, it definitely depends on my mood. Some of the Trinidad James I got on the playlist gets me fired up and in my groove. Also, Babushka Boy by A$AP Rocky was in the most recent Primitive video, and I thought it was so sick. I love that jam, how they edited the video too. It was all amazing.

What about during a competition? Do you like having headphones in to keep you focused?
I have had some good luck with doing that. I like having headphones in because I get so in my head. I’m sure everybody does, but like I get so in my head at contests that it’s kind of nice to jam out. It’s a double-edged sword because I get worried that I’m missing stuff the announcers say, like has my run started, is it over, how much time I have left. Which I probably shouldn’t be worried about. I feel like when you watch someone like Ishod [Wair] and he’s just skating and doesn’t even realize if he runs overtime or anything. He’s jamming, and people don’t want his run to be over. (laughs)

Do you have a specific song that you play on repeat to keep you in that zone, or do you have a playlist that you shuffle through?
I usually put on my most recent liked songs from my Spotify, and whatever’s new or that’s hyping me up at the time. Sometimes I’ll go and unlike a song and like it again to put it at the top.

Photo Credit: Ferra

Here’s my closing question that I always like to ask. Are you a fan of karaoke at all?
Dude, yeah, I haven’t been too many times, but I have a funny story about karaoke. The only time that I’ve been was at this contest called Take The Cake, and it was in Canada near Niagara Falls, so we all would party after. This was a long time ago, and I podium there. I think I got second or something. We went out to karaoke that night, and all the people from RDS were there and all three bosses with a company card, you know. I barely drink at all, and I was just stoked to be out. But they’re like, ‘Yo Micky, we got you drinks’ and they keep giving me drinks. I would go and hand them off to homies or girls or whoever.

I signed up for karaoke with this one dude, Benny, and he had already gone up a bunch of times. I was looking for someone to do Billie Jean with me. By the time we got up there, I had waited an hour, the dude on stage looks at Benny, and he’s like, ‘you’ve been up here like four times already. It’s just you dude.’ I’m like, I can’t do this alone. I’m stone-cold sober, and he’s like, ‘nope, here you go. Here’s the mic.’ I thought it was going to be fun with the homie. So, I was like, I’m either going to make a complete fool out of myself, or I’m going to kill it. I was like, all or nothing. F*ck it. I did the whole thing, dude. I threw the hat, and I did the moonwalk on stage. It was pretty lit people were feeling it. I got such an adrenaline rush. I get down, and everybody is like, ‘dude, that was sick!’. Then I was walking back from the club later that night, and I was walking by these girls, and they all yell ‘oh, that’s the guy from the Billie Jean karaoke song!’ And I was like, ‘oh, you were there?’ and they’re like ‘no, it was on the big screen outside the club on the strip!’ (laughs) SBC Magazine did a little article write-up about that trip, and they had said my Billie Jean performance was uncanny.

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