“Screening the Cube” An Interview with Cooper Whittier
| December 4th, 2021 |
Interview by Jon Stark
Jon: Yo, what’s up Coop?
Cooper Whittier: I was getting my ducks in line. Trying to make an Instagram post.
Haha, oh yeah?
Yup. That’s all I do now. Getting my ducks in a row. Damn ducks.
Why was it so hard to get a hold of you the last few days?
[Both laughing] My phone’s broken.
What was up with your phone?
It’s been kind of—it hasn’t been broken for a while but it has been actin’ up for a minute and I’ve been goin’ no phone for a week at a time.
I guess not having your phone has its perks, eh?
It feels so good. But then at the end of the week I get a big rush of, “Oh my god, I’m not posting anything on Instagram. People probably think I don’t care about the video that just came out. People probably think I’m just cocky or something.”
Haha, but little do they know you just have a junker phone. A few days of chasing you down and I got you here.
Yeah, you got me here.
What have you been doin’ since Dreamcastle came out?
I’ve just been snowboarding. Which actually feels so nice. Kind of just been on that bum life. Snowboard, hangout with friends, go home, sleep, snowboard. Now I’m just kinda working, makin’ clothing. Doing that and doing some graphic design stuff.
What was the process like finishing the editing of Dreamcastle? What was the delay all about?
Haha, well the delay was this Bladee song. It got fully flagged for copyright. But, the situation prior to that was already a serious process, to say the least. It was a whole week and a half in Colton’s basement just buttoning up everything.The last four days were fuckin’ ridiculous, honestly. We’d be in there for insane hours. Then of course we go to post it and Colton and I—I think Mo was there—we were so juiced, we were watching it upload and then they’re like, “Ok, we’re gonna go get some food, do you want to come?” And I was like, “No, I’m just gonna watch it upload,” because I was kind of paranoid. I watch it fully upload—I’m there with my best friend from back home, Henry. He’s been waiting there for like eight hours at this point. It fully uploads and it’s doing the processing then it’s just like, “Banned in all countries.” And I almost started crying. Like are you fucking serious. I just knew it wasn’t gonna be an easy fix. It was like my favorite part of the video too, the part that got banned.
It kind of added to the lore of the Dustbox a little bit. The video getting delayed produced like twenty-four hours of really funny memes.
It definitely had its allure. And I do know that it is so on point with how we operate. It’s never that proper, something always gets messed up. It was on brand, as they say.
Likewise, over here at Torment. [Both laughing]
A bunch of bozos.
Shit has one hundred thousand views already.
What is up with Dustbox that contributes to that? I mean, last year’s success is clear but, you’re following it up—I know this is your third video, but it is always really hard to follow up success with success. A quarter million views last year and here you are well on your way.
I don’t know, it honestly is that one, this YouTube channel has been there for a bit and has been racking up views for a while now. Like four plus years. I have no clue, I’m not going to try and act like I know how the algorithm works but, I do know that it trusts some channels, ya know?
How much does the culture mean to you when it comes to a snowboard brand?
Everything, I guess. Yeah, that is what represents the brand. That is the brand. Obviously they have their image, but it’s easy to create a fake image. So, I’d say whether it be a brand I am just admiring as a consumer, or brands that I am admiring as a rider, or even our own brand like at Dustbox—that is everything. That is what embodies it, aside from who wears it, or how they wear it.
GNU was willing to provide more of an opportunity for you than they had in the past. You decided you would rather move to Public. Why?
It just didn’t feel right. I just started to see myself looking at snowboarding differently. I started to care about—I don’t know. Like, oh am I getting enough support? Or, am I valued enough? I think that was a big wake up call. Why am I even looking at snowboarding like that? That’s not what this is about and if I don’t feel comfortable with what’s underneath my feet, whether it be a graphic, shape or how the board rides, that is enough for me to take a step back and be like, “I really need to start valuing what actually makes me happy.” It was just stressing me out so much. Like obviously trying to promote GNU and represent them well. But, at the same time it’s like, “Dude, I don’t even feel like this is me.” It just felt so fake. Not on their end, but on mine. I am really grateful for all that they did for me. Helping me get into the Snowboarder movie and supporting me from a young age. That was huge. I hope that it doesn’t come off like I’m ungrateful, arrogant, or ignorant to the fact that they did so much for me.
Nowadays there is a much slimmer opportunity to make a livable wage from snowboarding, did that have an affect on your decisions as well?
Oh yeah, totally. I think that was a big part of it. What is this thing that I am trying to hold on to? It’s not what it once was. I see a lot of people trying to pretend that it is what it was as far as pay wise. Obviously, some people play their cards really well and can make a really good living off of it. It’s just, I don’t really see the benefit of it. I would rather work all summer, and then just treat it as something that’s pure. I couldn’t imagine treating it economically. That doesn’t even seem realistic for me right now. Especially with the landscape of the industry. I didn’t know what I was holding onto, honestly. I think I started to look at older riders and people who are in the industry who are just so burnt on snowboarding. I felt myself going down that path. Like, yo what—at this time I’m nineteen years old. I need to be protecting myself from that at all costs, ya know? Like, this is fun. This is what I live for. If it’s gonna be my life, I’d like to enjoy it. (photo by Oli Gagnon)
I have a lot of respect for you to have that kind of foresight. It’s really incredible. What is it about Public that fits for you? Anything specific that has made this an easier choice for you?
Oh totally. Just the fact that I get to call Joe and talk and get advice. Whether it be about the business that me and my friends are trying to grow or my “career.” It fills me with happiness. When I get off the phone with him I feel so inspired and it just feels real. It’s still run by snowboarders, who all care about snowboarding. I relate to Joe and he can relate to me. And Josh—he’s a genius when it comes to graphics. I guess that’s why I have respect for it. He puts his everything into his work and it shows. And they’re only doing it for the reason of uplifting snowboarding and that is powerful.
I hear you weezing into the phone right now, how much of those screen printing chemicals have you been huffing these days?
Dude, I’ve been trying to be better about standing away from the plastic while it’s burning. Probably too much. It’s always too much. Even ten minutes in there and you’re like, “Oh god, I gotta get outta here.” It’s bad news, haha. I’ve been thinking about getting a mask or something. I think it’s time.
When someone supports the Dustbox by purchasing merchandise, how are those resources used? How much of that goes to weed?
Haha, none of it goes to anything like that. It goes to paying filmers, paying for Airbnb’s and paying expenses like van payments. I never thought it was gonna get to that point. Especially when we first started makin’ em. Like, “Oh, this would be cool. I don’t know what we’re gonna use the money for but we’re makin’ t-shirts.” And then it fully became something that is a big part of the Dustbox.
So there’s a direct correlation between you guys doing a merch drop and getting everyone out there and filming?
Every single person that bought something over summer of 2020, their money got us to New York City on that first trip for Dreamcastle. We barely slept and just worked our asses off and used every penny of it. I’ve tried to stash away as much money with the gang this summer going into this winter. We have big ideas.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Dustbox and why your relationships made it so successful. Would you say that was the number one reason for its success? Or, is there another factor at play?
Oh no no, that is one-hundred percent the case. If that wasn’t the case we’d all hate each other. Most of us would have moved back to the East Coast or quit snowboarding. The amount of time that we have spent together is insane. Even in the first year of filming with our first big video, dustbox presents… If we weren’t all really good friends, it’d be a nightmare, this would not function the way it does otherwise. Obviously it can get heated, like any group. No matter how much bullshit gets tossed in there, we always find a way to remind ourselves that we are just friends. If it weren’t for that we would be in shambles.
Without friction we don’t have mountains.
As far as the relationships that we have with people outside of the group that became good friends with early on, like yourself, and like many people in the Salt Lake community, those relationships gave us the ability to feel confident and give us the resources to do what we do now. It would not be anywhere if we were just good at snowboarding. (photo by Oli Gagnon)
What are you working on personally, in relation to your own growth as you move into your twenties away from your teenage years?
Well, I’m in school and I’m trying to do that. While doing this stuff with Dustbox, I am really trying to learn how to balance it. I’m trying to figure out what the hell I want to do, and how I want to do it. That’s about it. Go to school, try to learn as much as I can. Do something cool after snowboarding. Trying to keep moving forward while keeping the options open.
Have you declared a major?
Yeah business. But inside business I have not declared what I wanna do. I was thinking about marketing because I have been around it and understand it. It’s a very easily applicable degree and I feel like you can do a lot with that. I’ve also been thinkin’ about the entrepreneurship route because it’s obviously something I hold dear to myself. I love starting stuff and trying to run it and I kind of got the bug for that. Even with Dustbox, as a group it’s like, “Oh, we wanna start this. We want to try and grow this, and uplift it and do cool stuff.” That was the most amazing journey that I have ever been on. If I could keep doing that kind of stuff for the rest of my life then I couldn’t be more happy.
What is something super obscure that you’re interested in right now? Just right off the top of your head.
I feel like I’m always getting sucked into some weird shit. Whether it be like weather patterns or weird music shit. Not that this is obscure at all, but I’ve been obsessed with ambient music recently. That definitely is a little weird to some people. Just listening to these crazy crazy mixes. It’s like barely music but it’s so nice. I don’t know but I’ll send you something. All my stuff comes from YouTube. I’m always getting sucked into some random shit on YouTube. [Both Laughing] I haven’t been reading as much as I should be. That’s for sure. That’s the shit I should be getting sucked into.
What keeps you up at night?
T-Shirt graphics, snowboard shit, if I’m doing good enough at keeping in contact with my loved ones, friendships, intimate or family. I stress out about that a lot. I get so tunnel vision on stuff that sometimes I’m not the best at keeping in touch with people… Ideas. I get crazy motivated at night like any person normally does. I’m trying to figure out a way to box whatever I’m feeling in art or whatever it may be. I get so stuck up on that shit. A lot of t-shirt graphics keep me up at night though. Screen printing, that is just so bad. I’ll go to bed just stressing about a screen that I’ve been stuck on for a couple days and wake up stressed out. [Both Laughing] Last week I was battling this screen for three or four days. There was just this one line in the screen that was getting over-exposed. I could not figure it out for the life of me. It was just bad.
Take me back to the night at the Creeper to back tail, same way back lip, same way in New York.
It was at a New York City college. The night started out with us realizing that we didn’t have the bungee and we had left it at a spot earlier that day. So we’re like trekking through the snow late at night trying to find this bungee. Somebody had taken it, of course. We’re like, “Ah, shit. I don’t know if this spot is gonna work.” That was the start of it. So we just decided to shovel pull into it instead. We pull up to the spot and there is no snow. I kind of already knew that it was gonna be a Tech Nine, Salt Lake City in June spot before. So we just started shovelin’. We could see the security guard from the spot. He was like in his room. He obviously wasn’t watching close enough.“We’re like we’re going to get kicked out immediately. But, we have to try.” But dude, we were just shovelling so much. And it wasn’t like the snow banks were close. It was an assembly line. It was like a bunch of little ants grabbing crumbs and bringing them back to their ant farm. Reid’s [Smith] homie didn’t have a shovel so he was filling up traffic cones with snow and bringing it over to the lip. It was just the most jerry-rigged spot ever. It should not have worked at all. And yeah, did the creeper to boardslide first, and it was definitely a little bit underwhelming. Cody was like, “I bet you won’t go backtail sameway.” Cody pushed me to try it and on the first attempt I fell off once into the driest stairs but I was fine. The second time it just happened. The boys believed in me.
How many tries in total?
In total on the spot probably six or seven tries. A stressful six or seven tries. Thinking we were going to get kicked out during every attempt.
Damn, didn’t know it was so few tries. What’s the worst flaw of our Dustbox article?
There was one thing that got cut out right at the end where it was Brett talking about his mindset in the [name of video] video. It’s not my story to tell, by any means. That’s the only flaw. I just wish that little piece had gotten tossed in there. It honestly was pretty heartfelt and it would have been cool for people to hear. That’s the only thing I can think of.
[Laughing] The article got finished the same way Dreamcastle got finished.
Oh yeah. Colton learning InDesign in two days. We’re just looking at him like, “I don’t know man, I don’t think that color would look good with that. [Both laughing] Honestly, Colton really bossed up with the design part of it. He definitely put a lot of that on his shoulders. But at the end of it we’re looking at each other thinking wow, we could probably make a magazine.
Haha, be careful what you wish for!
I mean, you can find flaws in everything. The fact that that was pulled off is pretty incredible. Mo is the ultimate MVP for that. If he wasn’t driving the story it obviously wouldn’t have been as cool and it wouldn’t have encapsulated a little bit of it. People would have gotten a good idea about how we operate. But Mo really went above and beyond.
Where does Dustbox go from here?
Zumiez, right? Isn’t that the next best thing? [Both Laughing]
We can just end it on that.
But, just like try to stay happy, try to stay healthy and keep doin’ it. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh what do we do now?” But, it’s like dude nothin’, don’t do anything. We’re just gonna keep doing what we do. Maybe we keep getting bigger and maybe videos get more views and more people get into snowboarding. I think we all wanna do stuff once we’re in a position to do something for the community. That’s one thing we all feel pretty passionate about. I think about it a lot. Just because I feel like we’ve been kind of blessed to be put in this position. I’ve got tons of ideas, but just give back to snowboarding because snowboarding has given us so so much.