Interview by Jeff Schmuck
How are you doing guys?
Eric Iberg: Busier than I’ve ever been in my whole life. (laughs)
Tanner Hall: Real good. Been getting out on my skis a lot and just really enjoying life again. It was a rough two years for me and I’m finally back to a point where I’m just super stoked and loving life.
How were the Holidays for you? What'd you get up to?
Tanner Hall: The Holidays were great. I just kept it mellow here in Park City with the family. My mom and dad came down but my brother just got married so he was on his honeymoon with his wife. My mom decorated my house like crazy and put up a huge tree and made us some home cooked meals for like two weeks straight. So you can never complain about that, and it’s always good to see my pops because he doesn’t get down here all that often. Then on New Year’s I went to sleep at 8:45pm and was out the door at 5am on January 1st to do some shooting with Sammy Carlson and Alex O’Brien and got some dub corks going in the backcountry.
Eric Iberg: I went home to Minnesota for six days to see the family and the mad amount of snow, and got some skiing in at Highland myself, which was great.
Photo: Alex O'Brien
So first off, since everyone wants to know, how was the comeback been going Tanner?
Tanner Hall: It’s been going really well. I had some troubles at the beginning of the season with one of my knees and was pretty worried about not being able to take impacts because I was experiencing some lingering problems. But I found this doctor in Ensenada, Mexico named Milne Ongley, and he’s amazing. He does these weird injections with these huge needles that contains a solution that he created which strengthens tendons and ligaments and rebuilds cartilage and soft tissue. I only went down there a couple of times and after what he did for me I went from the mindset of never being able to compete again to being ready to go within a few weeks. I couldn’t have had more of a blessing and it really brought me back to where I needed to be in life to start getting out there in the backcountry and building jumps and doing new tricks again. So I’ve been feeling really on it and have been blessed with some really good days on snow. I’ve been skiing lots with Brady Perron and Sammy and Ian and Neil Provo and have just been really enjoying skiing again in its purest form. It’s going to take a little bit of time to get back to where I was, but with the program I’m on right now with a no stress winter ahead of me it’s going to set me up to come back to contests like never before next year.
Tanner, mid-double back on January 1st. Welcome back T! Photo: Alex O'Brien
What are your plans for this season?
Tanner Hall: I’m going to hang around here in Utah until just after X Games and then I’m heading up to Retallack for about two months to film and then to Red Bull Cold Rush in Silverton, Colorado. Then right after Cold Rush I’ll head up to Alaska and do a bunch of filming.
Who will you be filming with this winter?
Tanner Hall: I’m going to be doing all my filming with Inspired Media and with Poor Boyz Productions as well. I’m super stoked to be linked up with Johnny and the boys again, because I started with them way back in the day and it’s going to be great to be back on my skis with them behind the lens.
Poor Boyz Productions' Johnny Decesare & Tanner Hall. Photo: Charles Spina
You briefly alluded to this a bit earlier, but are you planning on competing again in the future? Particularly with the looming announcement about the possible inclusion of halfpipe and slopestyle skiing in the 2014 Olympics?
Tanner Hall: Yeah man, definitely. I’m going to take this winter to do some tricks in the pow and get a really good segment with PBP and a bunch of good segments with Inspired, and then I’ll start skiing halfpipe again next August and then come back next winter in my old true fashion. I’m really looking forward to it, because I couldn’t be more stoked to get back to doing what I love doing the most, and that’s dominating the halfpipe scene.
Photo: John Vandervalk
And since the Olympics seems to be such a hot button topic right now, what are your thoughts on it?
Tanner Hall: You can look at it both ways. If it gets in it’s going to open up a lot of doors for the sport, but I also agree that we need to keep the core side of our sport going strong, because once it gets in it’s definitely going to twist and turn things and blow up some athletes and do some crazy shit. But at the end of the day I’m all for it, because it’s going to make some athletes’ lives better and bring more money to our sport, and I think it would be a blessing to have skiing put on that platform and get us the credit that we’ve deserved for a long time now.
Eric Iberg: I think it’s good, because it’ll help the sport grow, and I’d like to see it help grow talent in countries other than just the US, Canada, France and so on. I’d love to see Asia back in the scene, whether it be in X Games, filming, etc, and I think the Olympics can help with that. And I also think it’ll help grow the athletic performance of the women’s side of the sport. But if not done properly, it’ll be stagnant, and it will create regimented skiers like in moguls and aerials. But if it’s done right it’ll open opportunities for a bunch of areas of exposure for the sport. So at the end of the day I guess we’ll see who has the power and what they do with it.
On that note, there’s obviously some concern that if not handled properly like you say, the Olympics could drastically alter our sport, although many are quick to point out that it hasn’t happened in snowboarding. Do you think there is a danger of that Iberg?
Eric Iberg: Yes. The problem with skiing is that we’ve been a competitive industry for the last 100 years, where as snowboarding, skateboarding and all the other action sports don’t have that long of a history. For example if you look back at the 2001 X Games, the last six places in X Games snowboard slopestyle were the highest paid guys there, the Forum team: JP Walker, Jeremy Jones, Bjorn Leines, Devin Walsh, etc. All those guys got last place, but they were some of the highest paid athletes in the industry at the time. Now skiing has never had that, and because we’ve never had that, where a film athlete gets paid more than a contest athlete, unless that film athlete did well in a contest at the beginning of his career that is, and because I don’t see it changing in the next four years, I don’t see how it’s going to be a good thing in that area. I foresee more money being reinvested into competitions and that whole element, and not as much support going to guys like Pep, Pollard, Andy, and anyone who’s just a film skier. So that’s what scares me the most, unless the industry can figure it out and starts giving equal money to the guys who are pushing the film industry or webisodes or whatever they want to do. I mean look at the Traveling Circus guys. How much longer do we have to watch a webisode about them being poor ski bums? People all over the world know who they are, but they’re still ski bums? It’s not right.
Order your copy of Like A Lion now at likealionmovie.com.
Speaking of the film side of things, your new movie, Like A Lion, has been receiving widespread critical acclaim since its release and has been one of, if not the most talked about films of the year. What are your thoughts on the reaction?
Eric Iberg: I’m pretty stoked, because no matter what we’ve tried to do differently in the past it was always the same, because at the end of the day any and all ski movies are just skiing and music. So when we went into this project we had some examples to go off of, and we knew that if you sugar coat a documentary it’s very obvious, because you already know all that shit, because you’ve seen it in the magazines or other movies. So at the very beginning of setting out to make this film we decided that we needed to tell the truth, and it’s cool that the people in the industry who were most scared about that image being portrayed are now embracing the film the most. And in addition to that, people outside of the industry are now getting to hear about Tanner. So to me it’s a pretty cool feeling.
Tanner Hall: I couldn’t be more stoked. I was really nervous before the film came out because I knew that me and Iberg had taken a really big chance making it, and I didn’t know how the reaction from the sponsors and the fans was going to be, but I’m just really glad that everyone kept an open mind when they watched it. It all really came together for us and I know the story was spot on, and I was super stoked when all of the sponsors, fans and other athletes came up to me after seeing it to give me props and thank me for telling the true story of everything I’ve been through.
Iberg, Tanner, Cali P and Phantom accepting the award for Best Documentary at IF3. Photo: Charles Spina
Speaking of the serious lack of sugar coating in the film Iberg, how difficult was it for you from both a business and personal standpoint as a filmmaker and friend to really delve into those issues Tanner that was dealing with, particularly with alcohol and drugs?
Eric Iberg: I think from a business standpoint the toughest thing was that when you make a 100% truth-based movie it’s generally because your career is done and you’re trying to cash in on something, but with this film we approached it as this is 100% chapter one. So to tell the truth when you’re career isn’t over, you’re opening it up to the world, and I think the industry had a tough time business-wise understanding that this isn’t saying his career is over, and that obviously makes it nerve racking for them because they have a lot of money involved with him and whatnot. But in the back of Tanner's head and the back of my head we knew that it was just about putting the truth out there, because there’s been so much talk about him for over a decade now, and it helped keep him relevant during his injury. And as far as from a personal standpoint, it was the gnarliest thing I've ever seen, because I was telling the truth while it was decaying in front of me. The backend part of the story was easy, but to have to tell the part that was going on right in front of me at the time was the hardest, whether it was because of CR passing away or Tanner’s problems with going into the drugs and alcohol. And the reason we had to show all of that was because that’s what he was going through at that moment, and if we made a movie that said everything was great during that time, we would have been lying.
Was he all for talking about those issues so openly, or did he have to be prodded into a bit?
Eric Iberg: He was excited to talk about it, so it wasn’t pushed in any direction, because it was something that he wanted to tell in his own words. And I think in some way it was therapeutic for him, because it helped him see what he was going through. So I think making that part of the film was a big outlet for him, because he wouldn’t sit down and talk to family or friends about what was going on like that.
When you first set out to make this film, what were the two of you looking to get out of it?
Eric Iberg: He called me up in August 2009 and asked if I wanted to make WSK107 in a year and a half, and I said, “Well shit dude, what are you doing this year? How do I even know if you’re skiing again next year? I can’t commit to that yet.” So I pitched him on the documentary, because the whole idea to me was this is someone who lives for skiing, and his whole life is going to be for the sport of skiing, so like I was saying earlier, I wanted to keep him relevant somehow. And I felt the best way to do that was to tell the truth that’s never been told.
Tanner Hall: For me when we went into making it I just wanted to put out a story that showed the true life of an athlete, and I wasn’t going to hold back on what I went through to get to this point. And then halfway through the movie when CR passed away and some crazy stuff started happening in my life it ended up evolving into something deeper than we intended and kind of turned into an epic. Going into the project I could have never predicted how it would turn out when it was all said and done, because for me it felt like it went from one end of the spectrum to the other.
And do you feel like you both succeeded in those goals and got what you wanted out of it?
Tanner Hall: Definitely. I got way more than I ever could have wanted out of this film. With what I was going through with the alcohol and drugs and then to be able to sit back and watch this film once it was done and see how I acted and have something to reflect on, this movie kind of saved my life. And now I’m back on track, and I haven’t had a drink since September 15th, the first night of IF3. So the film really opened my own eyes and helped me out a lot in life.
Eric Iberg: The biggest thing for me in making this was that he approve of it. Because when it’s all said and done in 50 years, like I say with every movie, no one’s going to be watching it but him, and when he shows it to his kids and grandkids. So when I make a film, the only person that matters is the person or the people I make it about. And he’s proud of it, so whatever happens after that doesn’t really matter in my opinion.
Photo: Matt Stauble
Looking back on it now, how was the whole process of making this film become reality? Because as anyone who's seen it can understand, there's no question that it must have been a tiresome, emotional and passionate undertaking for the both of you.
Tanner Hall: It was definitely an intense experience in every way. When we were halfway through making it and began piecing it all together it started to become more and more real the more bits and pieces started coming in. And then when I sat back and watched the first rough cut all the way through I just thought, holy shit, we just put some serious blood, sweat and tears into this thing.
Eric Iberg: I can’t even put it into words. You can kind of see how gnarly his life was in the last year through the movie, but I lived that life with him every day. I moved out here from Quebec to move in with him to live this life and tell this story, because when you’re making a film like this you can’t just show up randomly, film an interview and get what’s real. So it was a crazy thing to create, and it wasn’t like making a normal ski movie. The mental stress, the financial stress, the friendship stress and the relationship stress all played major roles. For me the most difficult part of it overall though was to watch your friend destroy himself, while trying to keep a movie angle on it, but at the same time knowing what’s most important for him. So when you have to put things off as a subject to help the subject, it’s really hard, like when CR passed away. Some people think that was the hardest part, but I feel that CR was a light, because he was a gift to us for a second time when he came back from his head injury. He was someone who came back from that, and showed not just Tanner, but everyone else, how you can correct yourself and that you can be anyone you want to be. That was his role in this world.
RIP CR Johnson. Photo: Jeff Schmuck
Coming back to the present, I know you guys have got a ton on the go right now with Inspired Media. Give us the scoop on what's new and exciting with the company.
Eric Iberg: Well like I was saying earlier, the original goal was to make WSK107 this year, but because we were finishing up the documentary we just weren’t on top of it. I tend to take three years off between movies to re-think and evaluate and promote and bitch (laughs). So it just wasn’t the right time, but now that we have a company we started thinking, well what should we do? We obviously really wanted to do something on the Internet, and we knew all these crews all over the world who were producing content, so we decided to make inspiredmedia.tv, which is programmed ski shows. So what we’re going to do starting January 13th is every Thursday at 9pm EST we’ll have a different ski show for six months. The B&E Show, which will start our whole program this Thursday, The Provo Bros Show, which will have three episodes this year, The THC Show (The Tanner Hall Connection), which will also have three shows, and I have a show from the Minnesota-based crew of Willie Borm, Cody Ling and the Flanagan’s. Then up in Quebec we have the D-Structure crew, who will also produce three shows this year, and that’s JF Houle, Paul Bergeron and Charles Gagnier and that whole crew, and Phil Belanger will be putting it all together, and then we’ve got Sean Field, Omar Otte and Skogen Sprang producing some shows out of Tahoe this winter. There’s all these ski webisodes on the Internet that come out so sporadically, and there’s no organized scheduling, so the idea is to give people somewhere to go every week at a certain time, and they can check out a new ski show, and if they miss it it’ll still be available on the website. And hopefully we can give everyone a taste of big mountain, urban, competition, flat land, mountainous and every type of feel in skiing. And in addition to all of that, I’ve always wanted to do a radio show since the days of NS Radio on your site, and since that idea has been swimming around in my head for the last however many years, we’re going to do a weekly Inspired Radio Show. They’ll take place every Tuesday night at 9pm EST, and we’ll do an hour-long radio show with the athletes that are coming up in the featured show on Thursday. It’ll be live show that you can listen to on the website, and there’ll be a chat below where you can ask the guys questions, and I’ll be playing new music that I get from the islands.
Tanner Hall: Yeah there’s going to be a lot of different stuff coming out, and the whole concept is really just to keep all the kids updated, because there’s a lot of different blogs in the world but we wanted to do something a little different than everybody else and keep it funky and fresh. I think the crew of kids we’ve got right now are at the top of their game and are very much in line with what we want to show in skiing, and I think everybody out there is going to be stoked on the creative ideas that we’ve been coming up with.
And speaking of music, in addition to Inspired Media, you've also launched a record label called Inspired Music with Cali P and Phantom. Tell everyone out there all about it.
Eric Iberg: Well we got to meet Cali P in 2003 through Mickael Deschenaux while we were making WSK106, and then Tanner and I got to do a bunch of work with him individually over the last seven years. It’s always been a dream of his to be on an independent record label, because he’s always worked for himself and never wanted to be forced into doing something, So through Tanner and their relationship, Tanner had the funds to kind of help out with his dream, and then Phantom came on board as the producer, and myself as the middle man to help keep the communication going between an artist and an athlete and a producer. So it all kind of just fell into place, especially during Tanner’s injury, because it gave him time to think about other things in life. And other than skiing, music is his life, so they came up with a plan and over the last year we executed it pretty well. And now we’re officially Inspired Music Concepts out of Kingston, Jamaica, and our goal is just to spread the music to the world. And since we figured Kingston, Jamaica is the capital of this kind of music and the world looks to Jamaica to see who the best is in this kind of music, we knew that was where Cali and Inspired Music had to be. So I’m excited to see what the future will bring in an industry that’s pretty new to Tanner and myself.
Tanner Hall: Yeah we moved into a pretty nice house in Red Hills, which is in a nicer part of Kingston and we’re building a studio just outside of the house in the backyard. So everything is going to be in house. Cali writes songs there, records music there, and we master music there, and I want everyone to know that we didn’t do this just to make music for our edits and our movies. We did it because Cali and the world of dance hall reggae music is on a serious rise right now, and like Iberg said it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years, because we’ve got some really big things in mind and I have no doubt that you’re going to be seeing Inspired Music all over the place real soon. And be sure to check out the Like A Lion Hot Steppa video, which will be dropping later this month. I went down to Kingston and did a little cameo in the video and it should be hot, so check it out.
Tanner, Mickael Deschenaux, Iberg & Cali P.
When can we expect some new music to be released under the label?
Eric Iberg: Right now Cali has an album that’s going to be released in Switzerland at the end of this month. Hemphigher, a producer who created the beat for Jah Rule The World, is helping putting it out, and there are some big Swiss artists who are featured on it. And then he has an album that he’s been working on for about four years now, which will come out pretty much when it’s mixed and mastered, so it’s looking like late spring or in May. And it’ll be more like his first album, Lyrical Faya, which has more of a roots style, where as everything we’ve heard in the last couple of years on the Internet from him has been more dance hall, reggae, hip-hop and R&B. It’s a pretty unreal album, and that will be our first full album under Inspired.
Tanner & Cali P. Photo: Matt Stauble
As you mentioned earlier Iberg, there was a lot of talk going around the ski world that you might be teaming up with Tanner again to make WSK107, and that's obviously not the case with everything you’ve got going on with inspiredmedia.tv, but do you have any plans to make another full-length film in the near future?
Eric Iberg: Until I can outdo Like A Lion, I don’t see myself actually directing a film for a bit, but I’ve got an idea that Shane Nelson and I would probably produce that I want to do in a couple of years if everything works out with the music and the media company. But it’s a pretty fucked up idea that would probably cost tens of millions of dollars (laughs). And since I don’t really see the ski industry paying for it I guess I better start looking outside of the industry for some friends (laughs). But in addition to all of the ski shows we’ll be dropping on inspiredmedia.tv, we are going to be coming out with a film this year. The original plan for WSK107 was that it was going to be filmed all at Retallack with the same people from WSK106, and the evolution of that idea has been that we’re going to have all of the people from all of our different shows come to Retallack throughout the year and throw down, and we’re going to put out a full-length feature film in August called Retallack: The Movie, that Josh Finbow is going to direct, and it’ll be a DVD with full distribution and a film tour.
In closing, Tanner, I know that this last year has been the toughest year of your life, with the injury, losing your best friend, and going through everything else you went through that was documented in Like A Lion. Is there anything that you'd like to say to everyone out there that you haven't already said about the whole ordeal?
Tanner Hall: Yeah man. To everybody out there who saw the movie and to everyone on Newschoolers I just want to give you guys a big shout out from the very bottom of my heart for all of the support. I know back in the day I might have not acted in the best manner, but everybody grows up in their own way and everybody takes their own time to figure out life. I’m glad I’m on a path now where I’m healthy, I’m hungry, and I’m ready to come back to skiing in such a good fashion. And all of your guys’ support and positive comments has really made me feel good, and it continues to motivate me, so a big thank-you to everyone out there.
Check out inspiredmedia.tv, launching later tonight, and don't miss tomorrow night's first radio show at 9pm EST hosted by Eric Iberg and featuring Phil Casabon and Henrik Harlaut from the B&E Show, along with their first ski show this Thursday at 9pm EST. Also be sure to check out the newly revamped tannerhall.com, and cali-p.com, dropping later this month.