Thomas Dalbis interview: The inside word on one of our most talented bladers and filmmakers

Thomas Dalbis
If you’ve watched any Australian rollerblading videos in the last couple of years, chances are you’ve watched something from Thomas Dalbis. The Melbourne-based blader and filmmaker is responsible for pushing out consistent, high-quality edits highlighting the best of the Aussie scene (and he’s a pretty damn good blader himself!). Jesse Kuch caught up with Thomas recently to find out more about his life, travels, filmmaking and what The Simpsons has to do with the Kal Crew… 

Hey Thomas, how goes? What are you up to today?

Hey man, just chilling with Chris Pullar Sawyer and my girl, and we just pulled up to some basketball courts waiting for crew to get here so we can setup a P-rail and just have a sunny sesh in the middle of a Melbourne sunny park. Classic sunday chill sesh, pretty much…

Ahh, sounds awesome. Tell the boys I said wassup. You just back from another sunny place… Sydney. Checking out the edit, the trip looked like a lot of fun… what did you get up to?

Yeah man, it was loads of fun for sure. Pretty much, the idea was to go up for a week, as my mate Tomek was travelling up with his girl … Sawyer and I thought it was a good idea to go up at the same time and just catch up with all the homies, enjoy Sydney and get as much footage as possible. It turned out great. There was perfect weather every day, cool parks and loads of sick street spots. I also managed to stay at a family friends crib in Bronte right by the beach, so it was just perfect.

They definitely look like they have fun in Sydney… not only blading but all the rest of life, too.

Yeah man, that’s for sure. There’s potential for anything outside blading … just getting around, logistics and all, was a nightmare (laughs). Sydney is so damn BIG!

Yeah it’s not a grid like Melbourne either … it can get a bit hectic. I guess we shoot back to the start. Tell me a bit about your life and rolling… Where did this crazy adventure begin for you?

Blading has been part of my life for about 14 years now. It all started back in my home town of Mantes la Jolie in France where my brother introduced me to skating by showing off his Feinbergs, doing grinds on the curb out the front of our house … I thought that it was the coolest thing ever. The next day, I got some Salomon ST1s and I was hooked! Then it was pretty much us two skating our local park and learning new tricks on easy flat ledges, until we met two other guys one day who were also blading and that’s when the KAL crew started.

Backside backslide up, across the flat and down at the Vic Titles
Backside backslide up, across the flat and down at the Vic Titles
Oh wow… I didn’t know Kal Crew had such a long history.

Yeah. We bumped into the other two guys a few times without knowing who they were. After a few sessions, we were like ‘hey what’s up, we should blade together’. The core crew since the start is my brother, Jeremy, and the two French mates from my home town, 20sil and Dje, who Initially started it because they looked like Karl and Lennie from The Simpsons. Nowadays, this Kal thing is much, much more than that, and it pretty much is made of all the close homies I skate with … Martin Gade, Sawyer, Tomek, Kev, Matt, Josh and all the other crew I forgot to mention. It’s pretty much if you’re down with me and my bro, you’re down with the Kal.

Rolling seems so strong in France… like it never experienced the slowdown that a lot of other places did.

Yeah, it’s always been a huge scene. Back in the day we use to train it to Paris to go skate Bercy with all the locals every weekend and every time we’d rock up there would be 20-30 bladers shredding the park or the Bercy ledges. There was also loads of demos over the summer with pros such as Dom Sagona, Billy O’Neil, Rachard Johnston, Chris Farmer, Evgeniy Leonov, etc … they all made it down, and it was so cool been a grom and skating with pros, getting to talk to them … I was bilingual, unlike most Frenchies, so that made it easier for us.

Nowadays I don’t think the Paris scene is as strong, but the love is still there for sure. The level of skating (back then) was just insane. Growing up skating with the best skaters in the world at the time, in my view, was the coolest thing. We would meet up weekly with skaters like Cyril Daniel, Julien Cudot, Adrien Clairaz, Clement Milot and just shred the streets of Paris. We were all groms at the time, but was definitely a sick scene growing up. For example, when we were on tour in ’08 with all the Parisians we shot that disaster 450 backside royal at the forum ledges with Cyril Daniel. Llittle did we know that we had just filmed one of THE sickest trick in blading, ever. That’s how good the Parisians were and that scene definitely helped shape the skater I am today.

Thomas Dalbis
AO soul 360 out at the Vic Titles at Prahran
Sounds like a life most people in Australia could only dream of… but we’ve got you now. When and why did you guys decide to move to Australia?

I decided to move to Australia around the end of 2007. (It was) mainly because I wanted a change of scene. I had lived in Paris for two years to study, so i was a bit sick of the Parisian lifestyle and I wanted to do a university course here in Australia to diversify a bit and get the best of both worlds. I also knew Melbourne had a cool little scene at the time, so that helped. It was around that time that my Mum and sister also moved back to Australia, so it made sense to meet up with them.

What did you study?

I studied Bachelor of Business with a major in Entrepreneurship. I completed in 2 years as I was able to use credit from my French diplomas.

Thomas Dalbis
Truespin topside pornstar
Oh nice… I was expecting maybe something with video.

Nah, I pretty much taught myself video. It just came with blading, but now that I think of it, I wish!

Yeah it’s like that eh… oh well, it’s always easy to look in hindsight.

There’s always YouTube tutorials to catch on lost time (laughs).

Who need degrees when you’ve got YouTube?! These days, alongside your skating, you’re also recognised around the globe as one of Australia’s most prolific and talented rollerblading filmmakers … have you got anything in the works in the works?

Yeah man, we always have something in the works. At the moment I’ve got multiple projects I’m filming for few street sections of the homies Tomek, Martin, Scowie, Sawyer and myself. I’m also currently working on a new Razors Podcast to promote the new Waikiki skate. Hopefully we wrap that up soon to be in sync with the hype of the skate worldwide. I’m also working on a new edit for my Australian Street Edit series where I usually try and feature most of Australia, not just Melbourne … and finally, I’m also working on a ‘best of’ section with all of Martin Gade’s street clips of The Joint Tour and filming a bit for Circolo on the side. So yeah, always busy and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Far out… looks like we won’t be short on content for rollerblading.com.au then (laughs). These days a lot of people put out edits… the technology is there for most people to be able to do it pretty easily… what do you think sets apart a good edit from the rest?

First of all, it’s a great thing that it’s getting easier and easier for people to put out content. As for quality in an edit, in my opinion, what really does it for me is use of tripod, multiple lenses and angles, and diversity in spots and tricks. Then there’s the high end edits that I see from people like Jonas Hanson, for example, that that are just on a totally other level … original filming, top camera, colour correction work and the choice of tricks are all super important when trying to differentiate yourself from the rest. But more importantly, he’s able to tell a story through his edits, not just trick trick, trick and see ya later. For me that’s the hardest part when it comes to setting yourself apart and it also helps make blading look good towards the general public.

Apart from Jonas, who else do you reckon nails it?

I like the E.Rod and the Dirtbox stuff, but the guys who really nail it in my opinion are guys like Austin Paz, Dom West and even guys like my mate Matt Carratelli. Those guys know how to film and make blading look good, which is what it’s all about.

BS torque to true topside acid at the Vic Titles
BS torque to true topside acid at the Vic Titles
You seem like you get to travel a fair bit… any adventures planned for summer or 2016?

Hell yeah man, always keen on the travel. We have spoken about doing Europe again, this time trying to hit up the competitions that we haven’t done before such as Fise, Roskilde and Blade Days … and I also want to bring my mates to comps I have loved for years such as Summerclash and Ghetto Games in Latvia. But yeah, most definitely a Euro trip, which seems to always be the best option to get out of the Melbourne winter. Also, the Soccer Euro comp is on in France next year, so there will be loads of people travelling over to Paris, which is dope. I’m always happy to welcome Aussie mates of mine and show ‘em the French way of living. Tom Sawyer and I are also planning on going back to Cali sometime next year.

Does that mean we can expect another full-length film like The Joint Tour then?

I doubt it mate, we’ll be missing our captain of the ship, FX, who will be in South America next year, so not really looking at getting a campervan and doing another 8000km tour, but who knows what we’ll come up with? As for another full length film like The Joint Tour … I’m not really looking at doing another project like that. It was a lot of work, much more than I expected. but some great memories and i cant wait to view it in 10-20 years and look back at the sick times we had!

That was kinda my question… it was such a long film, I imagine it was hours and hours behind a computer screen.

Yeah man, too long…

Do you reckon it’s sad we don’t see the full-length videos as much these days?

I dunno if it’s sad. It’s more that times are changing with social media and the internet … people get more content online than ever before.

Yeah, I guess people’s attentions spans aren’t the same these days. That said, sitting down and watching a full length video with a bit of a theme is still really next level for me… that’s why I loved The Joint Tour so much! You sound so busy with everything, whether it’s filming or actually blading itself … do you have time for anything else?

Blading and filming are pretty much my only hobbies. Nah, I’m a very active person and always keen to get out and do things, whether it’s shooting hoops with my homies, playing tennis, watching the latest shows or just hanging out on Chapel St for some arvo drinks, I’m just a regular blader that loves to travel and make the most out of life, petty much.

I guess that should do us nicely man… thanks heaps for taking the time. Is there anyone you’d like to thank, or shout out, before we wrap it up?

First of all, I would like to thank my parents for the constant support and allowing me to travel to comps since the age of 14. IMYTA Amsterdam in 2004 was my first and would have never been possible without them and I will never forget that. I would like to thank my girl Lea for been able to handle my lifestyle and understanding my love for blading … big thanks to my brother Jezza for getting me into this and pushing me all these years … cheers to all the homies in the MR crew (you know who u are) for making Melbourne the sickest scene to film, hang, skate and promote … big up to Rolling Victoria for organising mad comps all year round … shout outs to all my Euro homies see you all next year … thanks to rollerblading.com.au for giving me this opportunity and keeping us updated with fresh Aussie media, and big, big shout outs to the KAL, for life! See you all at the ARO!

Thanks man, it was a pleasure. Keep the killer videos and skating coming, the scene needs you! Peace.

Interview by Jesse Kuch. Photos by Hayden Golder. For more of Thomas’ videos, check out vimeo.com/kalcrew

Thomas Dalbis
Tom Scofield, Martin Gade and Thomas Dalbis at the Vic Titles

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