Interview: With Tassilo Hager about CURATOR – cult of snowboarding books

April 24, 2020
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We believe that for most of you snowboarding is an integral part of your life. If we’re right you love snowboarding’s unique culture. So does Tassilo Hager who is behind the CURATOR – cult of snowboarding books. It hasn’t been long since the second edition was published and we thought it would be cool to have a chat with Taz himself.

This is also a perfect time to read books and refresh your library as we’re in our homes and the boredom might start to creep in. If you feel like it’s your case exactly, you can use the promo code at the end of the article and get 25% off your order!

Hi Taz! Where & how are you handling the current situation?

I am currently home in Munich, Germany, working from my apartment and using the newly gained extra time to be with my wife and 9 month old son. When I look out of my window I can see the mountains and a skatepark right below my house. You can imagine how frustrating it is to have both right in front of your nose and still not be able to do anything with it.

In the first book you wrote that you felt the need of “curation” of the crazy amount of snowboarding content all around us. How did you come up with the idea for a curation through a book?

I started snowboarding in the mid-nineties and everything I know about snowboarding and the people behind it I learned from magazines and videos. These two media have always belonged together for me. If I thought a rider was the coolest because of his video part, I also wanted to know what was going on in his head. The guys who turned out to be not only stylish snowboarders but also extraordinary personalities became my idols. I think snowboarding is even more fun when you start to get to know the people and the incredible creativity behind it. In this sense, Curator is perhaps even something like a teaching book. 

The way we consume snowboarding today does not offer much space to present characters. You always get small, light snacks mainly in the form of Instagram clips. We are presented with crazy tricks and lines, but the personalities behind them are becoming less and less important. 

So,what I mean by “curating” is to filter out those characters who have more to offer than just their snowboarding. If you can remember a certain trick a rider did just as well as a certain sentence he said, then my goal is achieved. 

How do you feel about the snowboarding’s print media disappearing from the world? Do you think there is space for a resurrection at some point?

I had the opportunity to work as a freelance editor for Pleasure Snowboard Magazine for 12 years. The guys at Pleasure have always understood that the aesthetic component of a magazine is at least as important as the content. There are not many magazines that have been produced for so many years at such a high quality level. During my time at Pleasure I studied linguistics and publishing and also worked in a bookstore. So I have always had a very deep relationship with print. Compared to a magazine, every Curator book also contains a large amount of manual work.The binding of the thread, the gluing of the endpapers with the book spine or the mixing of the colours for the iris print. I am there myself and it is an incredible feeling of satisfaction to hold a finished book in my hands after all the different steps. 

I find the variety of today’s media exciting and useful. Online magazines, podcasts and social media all have their place and purpose. I don’t think that print magazines will come back in a big way, but that has nothing to do with the printed medium itself, but with the way to get hold of an actual copy. We have all become insanely lazy and we are used to everything being for free somehow. When we are at the train station or an airport, we don’t go to the kiosk anymore but rather stare at our phone. Print is becoming more and more a medium that you need to enjoy in peace and quiet at home. Like a bottle of wine. The quality should be accordingly. Nevertheless, even as a high quality book, you always compete with the internet and its global connectivity. I knew that a project like Curator would only work if it was available worldwide. Curator is available in shops in Japan, Sweden, Holland, France or Australia to name just a few examples and if you order your book online you get free shipping worldwide. This way Curator is already read in more than 50 countries.

How do you choose the stories or characters you publish? Is the process based on your personal views or do you get inspiration elsewhere too?

I actually draw inspiration from everywhere. Probably the biggest difference between Curator and other snowboard media is that it’s not all about the current generation of snowboard pros. It’s not even just about pros, let alone only about snowboarding topics. In my eyes the snowboard culture is a hodgepodge of different characters and influences. Fashion, music, art, nature and urbanity all these things shape the way snowboarding presents itself.

What was the general feedback on the first book? Did you use any of it for the second edition? What have you done differently in the second book?

I got an incredible amount of feedback, but interestingly enough, hardly any suggestions what the second book should be about. Much more in the sense that people liked the somewhat untypical combination of content and therefore expected to be surprised with the second volume as well. I have tried to live up to that claim. Regardless of the content, it is fascinating what possibilities book printing and binding offers. My idea was to keep the format but to experiment with printing techniques and materials for each new book. Curator is the alternative to the omnipresent single-use-products. The books are meant to be picked up again and again to flip through. In a few years, when you take one of the Curator books off the shelf, it will inevitably cause you to feel transported back to a certain time. Hopefully a time when snowboarding meant a lot to you and made you happy.

Is CURATOR a solo project or are there others close to it who deserve to be mentioned working on it too?

I have people who support me in my work. My buddy Stefan is generally an important help and of course it wouldn’t be possible without graphic designers like Alex Pfeffer or Mac Krebernik. Matt Barr – the mastermind behind the Looking Sideways podcast – has written some excellent articles as the editor of Volume II and has given the whole book the necessary polish. I try to work with a fixed theme in many of my projects. This makes it easier to sort the different ideas in my head and speed up processes. The theme for Curator Volume II was alchemy and I tried to imagine the snowboard culture as a kind of secret society. After I had studied alchemy more intensively, I found it relatively easy to commit to a certain color and graphic concept. Usually I then start to build storyboards, hoping to find a graphic designer or artist who understands the idea and gives it its own interpretation. 

Who is behind the whole artwork of both of the books? The new (second) one is full black and the artwork is amazing. Do you come up with the ideas for it yourself?

With P.J. de Villiers and R.P. Roberts I have fortunately found two outstanding artists who understood what I was trying to achieve with my theme and storyboards. They are responsible for the final design of the book. I am also grateful to Mark Kowalchuk who created lots of artwork for Volume I and II although he is always booked up. For me, art is an integral part of the snowboard culture and I am really happy to offer a platform for it in Curator.

As a lot of projects within snowboarding sometimes struggle financially, we would like to know how’s CURATOR dealing with this side of things? Is there an investor  / publisher behind it? How are the snowboard companies involved?

You’re right, it probably wouldn’t have been possible to find someone to pre-finance or relocate a project like Curator. It is simply not a profitable business case. I also had a pretty clear idea of what standards the books should meet, both in terms of content and production. Curator is printed entirely on FSC-certified paper by a local printing company that can print CO2-neutral thanks to its own solar system. The sale of the books also supports a reforestation project in Africa. These are all additional costs that a classical investor would probably have questioned. For this reason – and because I might have lost my mind for a moment – I decided to put in my own money for pre-financing. There are brands and people within the snowboard industry who were pretty enthusiastic about the idea behind Curator and therefore offered their support in the form of production cost subsidies. I’m very thankful for that. It wouldn’t be possible without them. 

I don’t want to make compromises or be told what content to include in Curator. I present my idea and either it is supported or not. My goal is to offer photographers, authors, illustrators and graphic designers from the snowboard community a reasonable salary and I’m satisfied if I don’t end up in debt.

Many of the stories, interviews and so on are about great personalities in the world of snowboarding, but they’re written by other authors or other people interview them. How do you choose the people who do the writing / make the interviews?

Fortunately I have a great network of friends in the snowboard scene who share the same passion and have the ability to tell stories. I can’t really describe how it all fits together, but in the end we all work on one book. It is magical. 

Is there going to be a CURATOR each season?

I would love to do a new volume every year, yes!

What do you do besides working on the CURATOR books?

I am a freelance author and my daily business is writing texts and translations. I work for insurance companies, but also for fashion and lifestyle magazines. This is what pays my bills. 

Foto: Stefan Goetschl

Where can we run into you on the mountain?

My local mountain is the Zugspitz region, Germany. As often as possible I try to shred in the morning and be back in the office by noon. Otherwise Laax is one of my favorite places in the world. Better not check your credit card bill when you come home from there. 

Foto: Michi Lehmann

Thanks a lot for the interview & we truly hope we can do our part to spread the word about your work as we really appreciate it! Take care!

Thank you for the opportunity!

If you’re as stoked on the books as we are we have an exclusive discount of 25% for you. The discount code is “WORLD25” and you can use it on your whole order on Curatorpublishing.com. You can also use this direct link to apply the discount code even before you start shopping.

If you have any feedback regarding CURATOR the book you can contact Taz via e-mail.
If you have any feedback regarding the interview and the WSF communication you can contact us via e-mail as well.

 

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