WE WERE ABLE TO MEET JIM AT THE INFAMOUS HANSA STUDIO BERLIN, WHERE SOME OF HIS FAVORITE RECORDS CAME TO LIFE. "LUST FOR LIFE", PARTS OF THE "IDIOT" FROM IGGY POP PLUS "LOW", "LODGER" & "HEROES" FROM DAVID BOWIE WHERE HERE RECORDED, I LOVE THESE FIVE RECORDS.
YOU PLAY ACOUSTIC GUITAR, RIGHT? Yeah, acoustic and electric, but it’s just a hobby, I’m not very good at it, I have been doing it for over ten years. I just have ideas, that kinda make me happy and record these for myself. I don’t claim to be musician or a guitar player though.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION / FRAMING ON FILMING... I WAS THINKING OF THE SCENE IN "YEAR 13" WHERE YOU PLACED THE METAL BENCH WITH THE PERFECT STREET BACKDROP Yeah I did have a certain framing in mind. I wanted to show it from somebody else’s point of view as they might be viewing it as a bystander. Just to show people that there is more than just skating that bench, you know. Watching the clip you can see how I was dragging the heavy bench a whole block. I wanted it to be one continuous shot, that I jump cut. It has a vibe to how it happened exactly.
I LOVE THE PIECES "YEAR 12" & "THE WAY OUT" YOU CREATED, THE'RE VERY ATMOSPHERIC AND HONEST PORTRAITS OF SKATEBOARDING. SLOWING THINGS DOWN IN CONTRAST TO ABSURD FAST-PACED STREET LEAGUE. WAS THIS YOUR AIM TO SHOW A MORE TIMELESS APPROACH? I didn’t do it to go against anybody or anything like that. I just did it as an expression of what I wanted to show. It’s more of a picture of what it’s really like as opposed to just trick, trick, trick, ...
ON WHICH FORMAT DID YOU SHOOT IT? I shot on 16, Super 16 mm and on HD cameras. On the HD cameras I shot the HD out onto 35 mm negatives and then digitized the film back on to an HD timeline. It’s a very expensive process that they claim, that they can replicate in a DI room, but it’s not quite the same for the colors. That’s a process I started doing, which enables me to have the film exist on 35 mm film, but doesn’t require me to shoot everything on film.
ARE YOU ALREADY WORKING ON A FOLLOWUP? I’m working on a short film for Supra that will be shot in March 2018. I’m working with Jason Lee on a film project – I’m writing on a non-skate movie, which probably will take a couple years to do. Also Jeremy (Klein) is working on a video, that I’ll have some footage in. I’m working on a bunch of different stuff.
YOU'RE WORKING ON A NEW SHOE WITH ADAM CONTRERAS. WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT? I have a large collection of dress shoes and we’re developing a shoe based on one of my dress shoes, that fuses a dress shoe with an athletic shoe, but has more of a last of a dress shoe. It’s slimmer in the waist and is pointier in the toe. This has been attempted before. In 2004 when I rode for Vans, I tried it for my third shoe. We tried to create a dress shoe of mine on an athletic sole, but it came out just looking like a sneaker. There is a fine line of what you can and cannot cross in order to still make it skateable. We’re pushing that line I think. I stopped the shoe process twice, because it wasn’t looking right and we had to change the last a couple times. I think we nailed it now and have a perfect hybrid of a dress and skateboard shoe. I’m tired of taking my dress shoes off to go skateboarding haha. I want to have just one pair of shoes, which I can wear and skate in all day. And still be able to wear them afterwards.
ARE THEY GONNA BE SLIP-ONS? No, although I do wear mostly loafers. I feel there are too many slip-ons on the market to come out with another one right now. I wear Oxfords enough to go with a lace up design - the shoe will debut in an Oxford lace up version. There will be follow up versions.
HOW DID YOU FIGURE OUT THE THICKNESS OF THE SOLE? It’s not too thick, it’s not too thin. It’s right in between. There is a point when you can’t go too thin, because it will separate the bottom of your shoe from the upper and wear too much on the side - we tweaked it right and they’re pointier too.
DOES THE POINTNESS HELP WITH THE 360 FLIP? You know, the ones I squeezed my foot into was a sample size 9, I’m an 11. So it’s painful to skate in, but the pointy toe was great for kickflips and 360 flips. The shoe performed phenomenally. Hopefully I have some samples next week in Los Angeles to try in the right size. But so far so good. It’s heading in a great direction.
. Jeremy Klein - Black Eyed Kid (Marc McKee for World Industries, ’91),
. Natas Kaupas - Portrait (Chri Buchinsky for SMA, ’87 - It’s a really simply drawn graphic with a panther coming out of his hair and it says Natas)
. Mark Gonzales - It has a picture of a Drag Queen in a frame, a family, and there is a paragraph written (Vision)
. Rudy Johnson - Experimental (Gonz for Blind, ’91) (very Basquiat like)
. Jesse Martinez - cell guy world deck
. Chris Miller - Dog (Chris Miller for Schmitt Stix, ’88)
WHERE YOU INSPIRED BY A CERTAIN PIECE OR MOMENT IN YOUR CHILDHOOD TO PICK UP THE PEN AND DRAW? No, not really. I guess the art that inspired me the most was from catechism. Religious art that I saw in 4th grade in church school catechism as a Catholic kid growing up. I remember being 12 and pencil drawing a virgin Mary head on a canvas, that my mom got me for christmas. So catechism book covers were my introduction to art.
WHICH ARTISTS ARE YOU FOLLOWING? I like Francis Picabia – he’s one of my favorites! I like Brian DeGraw - he’s from New York and grew up in Connecticut, where I’m from. He’s one of the newer artists I like. His work is phenomenal!
HE DESIGNED BOARDS FOR YOU TOO. Yes! Hopefully he will do some more stuff for us. And you know it’s quite varied - Picasso, Munch, Jean Michel Basquiat and Pasolini’s paintings to name a few, but I also like Bryullov -the last day of Pompeii, too.
YOU CREATED THE TWO HEAVY HITTERS DEATHWISH WITH ERIK & BAKER WITH ANDREW. HOW MUCH INPUT DO YOU HAVE ON THE ART DIRECTION? I contribute some, they can either give a thumbs up or thumbs down if they really hate it. I can contribute a lot of ideas. Some of ‘em make it through, some of them don’t.
IS IT A COLLECTIVE DECISION? Yes, at Deathwish it is. Baker is 100% Andrews call and at Hammers USA I do everything.
WHICH PERSON IN HISTORY HAS STYLE? Franco Citti did.
HOW DO YOU GET SPARKED UP TO GO SKATE? Just getting motivated by everyday life. Being a skateboarder is a beautiful curse that I’ve been born with. Like I wanna do it. I know, that’s what I’m supposed to do in my life.
I IMAGINE YOUR KNEES MUST AT LEAST HURT. Nah, I’m skating like five times a week, so my body doesn’t feel bad. I just have a bad back.
ANY RECREATIONAL SPORTS? No, I don’t do any stretching, exercises or weightlifting.
YOR'RE SOBER NOW FOR FOURTEEN YEARS. HOW DID THAT CHANGE HAPPEN? WITHIN A CERTAIN MOMENT? I started experimenting with hard drugs when I was 17/18 and they lasted until I was 22/23 years old. I just did not want to become a person eating out of a garbage can on Skid Row, which is what I would see when I bought drugs. So I knew it was either that, jail or overdose. I knew in the back of my mind, that doing what I was doing with drugs and alcohol was not something that I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. And that I was going to have to get some kind of control over it by stopping. The point that happened was not any particular point, it was a long build up of “I wanna stop doing this”, but I had to struggle. I would get closer and closer to straightening up and then finally I made it through a day. And then I was afraid of losing that day and the day turned into two, to three and 14 years later here I am in this room with you!
DO YOU HAVE A CERTAIN ROUTINE TO KEEP YOU GROUNDED? Not anymore, no. In the beginning I went to AA meetings and did everything they told me to do. At first I started going twice a day and then after a couple years I gradually stopped going, but I still help other people out, when they call me up having a hard time. Then I was practicing Buddhism, getting into my art and skateboarding above all helped to carry me through.
DID YOU EVER TRY ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS LIKE AYAHUASCA, WHICH CAN HELP TO RESET? You can’t erase this (pointing to his head), you can’t detox it. You’re always gonna have the memories. You have to learn to face the facts, that you can’t touch that thing or you’re gonna die if you go back on it. You have to make a clear choice. If you’re on the fence with it, you’re gonna get killed. I chose being a skateboarder, this is what I wanna do with my life for the rest of my life. Skateboarding, creating, making art, stuff like that. The drugs didn’t completely stop all that, but made it more difficult for me to be productive. Once I got rid of that – I was way more productive. Drugs got boring to be honest with you. Like this is the way my life is: you have to wake up and do this every day? I don’t wanna do this. I’d rather spend my time doing something else. The grass is always greener on the other side. When you’re sober sometimes you might wanna be loaded. But when you’re loaded all the time, you wanna get straight. Which you’re better off being on that side and having the option of getting loaded, instead of being loaded, not productive and not happy creatively and maybe never getting out. That’s what I think at least, but I’m not a poster boy for quitting drugs, if they’re working for you. I’m just saying what works for me.
DID YOU GET INTO SCREENWRITING TO WORK ON YOUR EXPERIENCES AND SHRE THESE MOMENTS? I’ll write things down in my notebook as they come to my head. I have ideas and stories that have happened to me, that I wanna tell. I tell them through making a piece of art, maybe a short film, maybe a painting. I’m not a self proclaimed writer though.
FOR THE LATEST PRIJECT THERE WERE SOME SCORSESE REFERENCES... WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE? I love Scorsese. “Who’s that knocking at my door” and then probably “Mean Streets” from Scorsese. But my favorite movie is probably “The Deer Hunter” by Michael Cimino. That movie is one of the greatest films ever made.
IF YOU HAD SUPERPOWERS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE? Maybe infinite life… I’m enjoying life and don’t wanna die.
DO YOU BELIEE IN REINCARNATION? Yeah, I think, that you come back, but you have amnesia. So you don’t remember your life and all the shitty or good things you’ve done carry over.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CONTACT WITH SKATEBOARDING? My first exposure to skateboarding were these two older kids riding around in my neighborhood. Skating at the beach down the street from my house. Something that they were doing really struck a chord with me. I was wowed: these guys are cool and they rode around in a crew. Seeing them made me wanna skate.
WERE YOU PARNTES SUPPORTIVE? Yes - I think I got a K-Mart board, when I was ten. I tried it and slammed right away and didn’t try it again for six months. Then I signed up for baseball, but tried out the board from the kid in the neighborhood and something stuck. I did it better the second time, didn’t fall off the board and felt like this is all I wanted to do. I signed up for baseball, but quit at the first practice when I was eleven years old. It was kinda shocking, but skateboarding took over my life. Then I got the “Public Domain” and “Streets on Fire” Videos. Seeing Natas skating in that video was all I needed to see.
FIRST SPONSOR? Probably a skate shop - I think “Baybrook Bicycles” and then World Industries flow. Rodney Mullen saw me skating and started sending me boards. I was flow on World and Plan B when they first started. Then I was on Birdhouse and Hook Ups. I got on Zero, but quit Zero to form Baker. And then we started the distribution company Bakerboys Dist. and formed Deathwish, followed by Hammers USA.
THAT'S QUITE A FORCE YOU CREATED! I wasn’t just me. it was Andrew and Ellington as well.
YOU'RE REALLY CLOSE BUDDIES AND ALL THREE SOBER... Erik has been sober for a couple years and Andrew was getting clean a weeks after me.
SO, EVERYBODY TOOK THEIR OWN PATHS... It was a long process, but we all stopped in the end.
ANY ADVICE TO PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE? Do it until you’re done and then make a decision you gotta come to the realization that you wanna stop. You gotta really wanna stop. Once you’re there, try to go to a meeting and just do what they’re saying. I know that’s kinda cliche, but that’s how I did it.
IF YOU COULD TIMETRAVEL - WHICH CULTURE OR ERA WOULD YOU LIKE TO EXPERIENCE AND WHY? I would love to be 18 in 1977. So I get to experience all of the sixties as a kid growing up, then New York from the Seventies to the Eighties.
FAVORITE GUITAR PLAYERS WITH CHARACTERISTIC STYLES? That’s a difficult question. Johnny Thunder had his own characteristic style, it feels like it was his own genre of music when he plays it. His songwriting is really good. Who else? Lou Reed! I love “Street Hassle”.
THE TRACK STREET HASSLE WAS ALSO IN THE BAKER VIDEO... Yeah, great track, but there are so many other amazing tracks on that record as well.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THE FLOW OF SKATEBOARDING? The flow compares to jazz.
JAZZ FAVES? Thelonious Monk, Charly Parker.
HAVE YOU BEEN GROWING UP WITH JAZZ IN YOUR PARENTS HOUSE? Not so much, I kinda learned about artists I was interested in through movies that had jazz music in them.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR WORK WITH JASON LEE. He and I are working on a film together and I’m also going to be in his skateboard film, that’s probably a skateboard piece and a bunch of spots that he travelled to on the way out to California. He would have to tell you the exact details, but that’s what I gathered. I don’t know the timeline. When he’s in town, we hang out, skate and shoot together.