Muriel Ph. Supa Dupa-Interview

For old skate dogs (let’s say adult skate dogs) Muriel is a spotlight in the dark age of the nineties skate era. He’s a famous shooter that brought inland the best world skate actions, closing them into the tiny pages of XXX Skate Magazine. But he’s more than a skate icon, he’s a father, a succesfull graphic and a deeply human being; this interview took several months of work to be completed, but now we publish it with pride. Please read it carefully ’cause we’re opening an old dusty but precious book of Italian modern history.

Interviewed by Fra’& Ross.

Shit, I still remember when I found your name signing the photos for the articles of contests on XXX…c’mon, introduce yourself to the few who don’t know you yet!

Hello, my name is Michele Peretti, also known as Muriel!
(with such a foolish way to start, we won’t surely answer with “ nice to meet you”)
Ok…. the honour of being in these “pages” came from the years between the end of 80’s and the beginning of 90’s, when I created and let grow up a skate magazine called “XXX Skate Magazine”, together with a partner/co-founder.
At that time a lot of kids knew me as Ph.Muriel. I signed the photos I made for the magazine like that…Ph meant “photos”, but probably many of them intended it as the name cut ( Philippe?!?), so whenever we met on the street they told me “Hi there, ph.muriel”.
B) At the Registry office my name is Michele, but between 80’s and 90’s many people knew me as PI-ACCA-MURIEL, for I signed my photos with Ph.Muriel… Sometimes, when some skaters called me Pi-Acca-Muriel I doubted they might think my name could be like…Philippe, or something like that….


Tell us Muriel, what did you do lately? Looking at your website I see you really approached every kind of photography and graphic too…and what are you doing now?


Well, judging from my website you might think I died a year and a half ago!!
Or at least from the date of the last updating! It’s my curse ( and the basis of internet!!), I’m used to postpone it as long as I can, even if I updated the web-site at least once every 2 or 3 months. Now I’ve heaped up so many overdue works…and besides, the site mainly shows the covers made in the last years; past photos and graphics are still in the drawers, waiting ( read it like “ when I’ll have some time left, I’ll upload the dated works too”…eh,eh,eh )

A) After the shut-down of XXX and my experience as an editor, I began once again with graphics, what I used to do before founding it. For some years I worked in an agency near Radio Deejay, where the “king” importer of dj mixers introduced me ( he knew me thanks to the adv we published on XXX ). After that, 5 or 6 years ago, I opened my own office where I could finally make my real desire come true since the day I’ve become a designer: creating and realizing albums covers. My father was one of the “creative” heads during the glorious days of italian advertising in the 70’s, and working with him I professionally grew up in it, absorbing all the “sensations” my father could pass me in those early years. But suddenly and so quickly, the advertising dimension turned into a brand new and modern world that I could not feel mine anymore.
And by the way, I’ve always been a designer rather than simply “creative”.
I loved strokes, colors and shapes…but when I was a student I wasn’t really keen on drawing, I was hopeless with it. At that time graphics was made of rulers, squares, rapidographs and pantone brushes, helping me to express everything I couldn’t do “freehand”.
Meanwhile, photography always grew by my side. It became part of me too always thanks to my father’s influence, as he was and he’s a great photographer first, and an advertiser secondly..
Indeed, I can say there was a completely different way of creating graphics ( and then, now that I work with Photoshop it seems photography and graphics have merged in an only activity – the photo-graphics ).
So, as the time and the eras came by, it steadily remained with me. After founding XXX I “had” to learn how to capture skate actions….not as easy as you might think, at all. I thought I had reached a certain skill in eye and sensitivity, but I immediately realized that, first, I had to perfectly know the tricks and the right moment for releasing. Then I had to pay my debt with the equipment, as for skate ( likely for many sports ) I needed to find precise technical characteristics ( speed, lenses, etc…). Last but not least, my wallet cried, as using the film rolls I needed to process them, a hard affair. Anyway, step by step, I finally got through, especially thanks to the American magazines ( mostly Transworld skateboarding ), a real photographic bible for me as for the most part of skate reporters of my age…
After XXX I went on shooting pictures, even if much less than before, as I was a photographer “without a goal”, that’s not my real profession….
Sometimes, if I’ve the chance, I use my photos for the CD covers I create.

B) With the closing of XXX, I came back doing what I could best…the designer…!
(by the way, when I worked in the magazine I spent very few energies in being a designer, let’s say 10%, as I had to get busy of all the rest! )
When we closed, an importer for dj mixers called me ( he inserted advertisements on XXX ) and told me that a management agency near Radio Deejay was looking for a designer A.D.; he had already talked with them about me…
So, for the 5 years after I happily worked in that world.
Besides, those years witnessed the blowing of the Internet, what gave me the opportunity of being a pioneer beneath those boundless prairies…
Then I opened my own office so that I could almost entirely dedicate my time in designing music CDs/DVDs covers.
It’s where I can let the most artistic side of my personality go free ( almost always ), finding a way to pay my rent at the end of the month.
Unlikely, photography failed a little, time after time.
Due to the coming of digital technology. That’s the paradox.
I’m not the integralist of a theorical old school, it’s just that saving money with the new technology ( no more films, development or print ) made me blind and required a compensation in time spent.
The number of shots I made excessively increased, so much that my photos got lost in incomprehensible supports called dvd, as I didn’t immediately start creating my own archive.
Besides, before that we were almost obliged to print them. Now print means selecting them first, which takes time ( to me mostly );
time that I never find, which comes up with having a very few shots printed. And I believe that an unprinted photos is a non-existing photo!!
I’m telling you this obviously because my job is not being a photographer anymore…indeed, I still take pictures for myself, as a passion, and as an art resource for the CD covers I design ( when I become a photo-graphics)……………


Any future project? Who knows, your return to the skate business, unless you were not in already…eh eh..

My old and devoted partners of XXX often suggest it…. and I would love to, I would want it with my body and soul…we spent wonderful years doing something we are proud of.
Besides, thanks to the updated technologies we could use now…oh gosh…
But since the day we closed, I kept thinking that the XXX experience had come to an end, the line closed into a perfect circle!
Sure, nobody says that…we should draw just one circle!
Meanwhile I’m working to an art project about what I cannot let you know the smallest detail, but of what I hope I’ll tell you everything as soon as possible…


And now, history lesson: ( how did your passion for photography begin and ) how did skateboarding came into your life?

My passion for photography came from growing beside my father: I breath it since I was a child, since I’m able to remember my life…
I grew up among the processing bowls, rolls of posters and film that thrilled me so much…
In the 70’s my father was a crazy horse of the advertising nouvelle vague.. He was what they called “ creative”, a definition that lost all its purity in the years. And before that, he was a photographer….a great photographer!! When I was 17 I started working with him in his advertising studio as a designer ( obviously starting from the dirtiest ranks, at that time )……….

It was springtime in 1988. Fifties and surf ran in my friend Marco’s veins, who skated too from sometime. One night he took me to a contest in Piacenza, where I was immediately sucked up in a world I had already caught, being a punk. The backwash overwhelmed me so strongly that we decided to give ourselves to a magazine, as we both already worked in similar backgrounds.. We left for the summer holidays pushed by sacred fire, and among the jugoslavian beaches and the post ( and pre-) wartime “ concrete”, we worked out the first “Number Zero”.

MY early punk years: I played in many bands becomed famous only after my departure: Indigesti, HC, 82 and Lacuna Coil. At the virus club I was known as “California” then become “Califfo” for my musical taste: california punk rock has been a musical revolution in the punk scene. Maybe California is the joint that came out years later with my laterskateboard passion. A curious anecdote is my appearance in a documentary filmed in the early ’80 by Claudio Cormio, a student in those years. Now he’s photography director of many films: his work can be seen in many Gabriele Salvatores works.

Tell us something about your story related to the one of XXX, maybe the most Italian influential skate mag of the 90’s..

After those holidays, I left my job and we dived body and soul in the magazine. We found the first sponsorships. So XXX number one was introduced at a skate party at Rolling Stone in Milan.
Day by day the mag grew and improved. We landed to the news-stands ( not always and not in time !). Different ups and downs made us divide, and I went on coordinating the mag until its closing in ’94.
In those years we travelled throughout Italy and Europe. We were known even in the Usa, in Brazil, and Ussr. We issued 3 editions of “Grindalo”, a national skate contest. The last contest, the “XXX Skate Party 94” was made in Bologna at Made in BO, and it still makes me very proud. With no lira at all ( yes, lira was still the current value! ) we created the first italian skate festival, a sort of Monsters of Skate: on stage more than 10 italian bands exclusively made up of skaters performed everything from hardcore to rap and metal.

In those years they called me “Editor”, even if I was everything else indeed, a photographer, a delivery-boy, an advertising provider, a designer ( activity to which I dedicated 5% of my time!). I considered myself lucky being able to count on a team of terrific people. The strongest and steadiest supportes were Andrea (now front man of Lacuna Coil), Maxie HB ( fashion editor ) and “G” from Rome, photo editor, with whom I shared our journey. And there was a limited but more than reliable and working team spread all over Italy.
All of them have had a relevant role in the challenge called XXX.
Like me, most of them learned to edit a magazine step by step. They were skaters obviously without any “editorial “ or professional skill. But they had lots and lots of enthusiasm. And with their boldness they made XXX great ( because money went into hiding!!).
And we had to face hard times!! We were completely unknown in the scene, and as it often happens in this case we had to fight the elite of lasting famous Italian skaters. But we finally did it, we won the trust of the readers in the scene. Who eventually loved us deep-down.


why did XXX close, in your opinion?

A) Well, definitely due to economic troubles. First, skate was not so known in Italy at that time. Even if we lived the first italian boom after the one at the beginning of the 80’s, it was anyway a “small” boom, looking at it nowadays. The last mag issues sold around 1.000/2.000 copies, if we were lucky. And having to spread it all over the territory implied a huge “waste”. We had to print 4/5.000 issues using a supply system that didn’t work so well then, mostly for “ small” editors like we were ( I’m not informed if it improved lately …).
We were missing on the massive media systems ( tv, radio and newspapers ), and that didn’t help us getting sold.
(By the way, with XXX we spent a lot of energy to this goal, trying to “create contests” and involve medias besides extra-field sponsors…the same that today feels at home with skate – like Fiat -. The way we did it was invisible to the most.. ).
So, earning a few by selling the mag, the whole economic contribution came from importers and the very few skate shops. But they had the same capitals, or hadn’t at all or didn’t want to spend. As a consequence…

B) We closed because of economic troubles. In 5 years of XXX publishing, the best moment for this market came around the end of the 80’s, when it seemed that from that moment on nobody would have stopped us. On the contrary, the media didn’t help us spreading in our top moment, while the extrafield companies consequently didn’t provide us the economic support we needed, so for the skate itself…
What we needed is exactly the same I saw happening lately….for instance, listening to and watching MTV, Radio Deejay, or looking at FIAT spots published on nowadays skate mags.
All that supports the skate market, which is not just a burden on the importers’ shoulders anymore, as it happened when XXX was out.
A magazine lives on sales and advertising ( not necessarily in this order…)
To make a mag sell copies, we need people who are fond of skate ( and of our magazine ). To find more and more people, we need skate to fill any space and corner all over Italy…
So, the most medias talk about it and broadcast ( here is the reason why MTV, AllMusic, Radio Deejay ), the most guys get closer.
Then, the importers couldn’t invest so much money, while those who could were niggard.
So, except for a few cases, the contests were poor and badly planned, as muich as the money for them…


And then the dark times coming…now skate is living another golden age: what do you think about it back to celebrity?

It’s too cool! For the reasons we talked about just a minute before. Eventually skate obtained the importance it deserves. A lot of guys can know more about it, this is great. Besides the football egemony ( which I love, by the way ) I believe that skate is the best for people under 30. It’s complete! You find the energy, determination, creativity, you practice open air, ( although in big cities…), you have colours, music…and you can let everything you’ve inside of you blowing out. So a few activities let the chance to express your attitudes so completely….at 360°….better, ( now ) at 900!

Do you feel more bounded to the idea of underground skate as it was in the 90’s, or you think that this new “wave” was more like skate with capital S?

I’m not an old school integralist at all, it’s the contrary. Underground skate made sense in the past, today that taste would be different.
My personality always makes me feel thrown forward: status quo is boring…I’m in everlasting need of news to achieve and get over.
Skate’s S will become bigger and bigger day by day. And then, each era has its own sometimes unique characteristics…but not those only possible!
For the reasons I mentioned before, I think that the best of skate consists in different ways of expression ( music, art, etc..) merging into it. Conclusion: skate with “S” doesn’t exist, every “wave” and its consequent “mood” directly comes from the age where we make it live.
Pioneers are the only with a steady and unique place in history.
Then we have evolution, which is one of the main characteristics in skate ( both litterally and broad ).

If you had to erase a skate era, which one would you clear? Which one would you want to live again?

I’m sneering…
I should think a bit about it…
I’m sneering again..
I like thinking that if I removed something, even what I loved most instead wouldn’t exist….
I must say that when flat-tricks came out, I missed the days of handplants:-)
The only reason is that they made me go mad, technically speaking and from a photographic point of view..
As much delicious as it was shooting airs in vert and sad or ollie kick on street…
It looked like they stopped in front of your camera for an endless time…
But luckily finally news came out….or, can you imagine how boring it would be?!!
In the end, in those years we have lived kind of sad and drab periods, yes indeed!
(As much as three days in Munster were like being in paradise…)

There are so many things I’d like to ask you, but somehow I’m always back to skate, as most of the people knew you for that; nevertheless, I’m sure you’re polyhedric…so tell us something we don’t know yet: what does Muriel for his own pleasure?

Paraphrasing the good old friend Pino Bucci from Lanciano ( importer at the time of XXX)…
“Ehhh, you’re touching my heart!!!”…
…I spend all my time with my 18 months-old son Simone..
He’s my joy!! Everytime he smiles I feel like doing a transoceanic ollie!!
This joy (and much more) is shared with his mum Katia, the best mum he could ever have !!

What to say….thanks for everything, Muriel. I won’t tell you to thank or say hello to anyone you want, as if you wanted you could make free use of the interview for doing it. I thank you for all the time you dedicated to us, and I urge you to inform the Behind staff about anything you’re going to do in the future…

Well, if I listened to my exorbitant ego I’d use these pages to write a speech worthy of the Night of the Oscars…
So I’ll try to control myself… (laughs)
Firstly, thanks to you and Behind for you think so highly about me interviewing me, and for the patience you showed waiting for it..
As usual, I’ve to greatly thank my father ( already done between these lines ) and my mother for the sensitivity she passed me ( fundamental for graphics and photography ).
Friends and partners…I already thanked some of them among the lines of the interview…I wanna also say thank you to mathias bauer, steve alba, steve douglas and all the old santa cruz skateboard team for the support given to XXX in those years…
There wasn’t the chance for someone else, instead. But who’s always been and remains near me knows a part of my heart is theirs…