Alright Jeremy, all these interviews start out this way: how were you first introduced to skateboarding and what was your first board?
I was always messing around with skateboards when I was younger. Someone had given me one of those shitty plastic boards and I used to let my dog pull me around on it. Stuff like that. But it was the Powell videos that really introduced me to it. All the kids at school were watching the Bones Brigade Video Show and I ended up seeing it and thinking it was the best thing ever. My first board was a Mark Gonzales.
What was it like growing up in the South Bay? Seems like there was a lot of fresh talent around there back in the day.
You’re probably thinking about when people like Daewon and Eric Ricks were popping up but that wasn’t until a little later on. There was really no one skating around when I first started except for me and my friends. This was back when everybody hated skating…. especially in school. At least at my school. There was nobody that skated.
But it was exciting that I was doing something that I liked and my Mom actually supported it… although she didn’t support my ditching 95 days of school in a row to do it. She didn’t like that at all. But she did buy me skateboards and stuff. I definitely lucked out on that one.
Would you ever see Rocco out at the Redondo Beach pier?
I actually started hanging around Rocco down there which is pretty much how I got sponsored. Before that, I was trying to get on Powell for like 2 years but they wouldn’t accept me for some reason. I was doing okay in contests at the time so I probably could’ve got sponsored by some awful company like Toxic or something but I really wanted to get on Powell. They’d send me boards every few months but I was never really on the team.
It’s hard to imagine you falling in line with Powell’s rigid Rules of Conduct back then…
Yeah, it probably would’ve never worked out. I’m sure that Rocco ended up working out much better. He was clearly the way to go. He always seemed to know exactly what he was doing while all those other companies were just following.
That’s one thing that I’d like to say about the industry now is that not having Rocco involved for however long it’s been… too long. It’s just not exciting. As far as I’m concerned, the industry is full of sporting goods companies now. It’s so mainstream. Back then, we were just skaters and liked doing what we wanted to do. Skateboarders are more like athletes now.
Very true. Was it obvious to you from the start that what Rocco was doing was important? Could you have predicted the company would blow up like it did?
I was too young and dumb to really know what all was going on but I definitely knew he was doing the right thing. I knew he was making a huge impact and all these dumb companies were pissed about it. I loved that. I respect anybody that does what they want without caring what anybody else thinks. I do think, in a way, he actually had to do some of that stuff… but at the same time, he was really doing something great.
You and Ron were really some of the first “super-ams” back in the day, actually receiving more push from World than a lot of pros did. Did you know what Rocco’s thinking was behind this? Was he was pushing you guys since Harts and Jess the Mess were maybe getting phased out?
I think it was more about sensing pressure from other companies. You saw companies like H-Street turning people pro... a lot of people said they were turning skaters pro too quickly but that’s where the industry was at the time.
We were going to these dumb amateur contests all the time and always placing high. It was becoming monotonous so Rocco told us to enter this pro contest in Del Mar, which was a real disaster for me. I thought I was ready because everyone was telling me that I was ready. But once I got out there and I’m skating the same course as Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk, I felt ridiculous. I’m standing there with all these fucking pads they make you wear even though it’s a fucking pro contest… I felt awful and I hated it. It wasn’t fun. I was over contests altogether from then on.
But being pro was a lot different back then…
It’s funny because back then, to be a pro, a lot of guys would try to play off this thing like, “Okay, I’m a street skater. I’m a street pro. But check this out: here I am on a mini-ramp doing a backside disaster! And here I am now on a vert ramp and I can do rock-n-rolls!”
From terrorizing Spike in Hawaiian hotel rooms to infamous phony phone calls, you and Ron were pretty notorious pranksters back in the day. Didn’t you guys have something going with H-Street at one point?
We used to fuck with the H-Street guys a lot but that was more of a friendly rivalry kind of thing. Even before Plan B, Rocco and Mike Ternasky would always hang together at contests and shit. I remember Mike always used to call Ron Chatman “Big Times”. But it was always friendly. Minor things, mostly.
I remember when they just finished their Hokus Pokus video. It wasn’t even out yet but somehow we ended up over at Dave Andrecht’s house because they really wanted to show it to us. We purposefully started acting like we weren’t even watching it. Just to be dicks.
But yeah, the big thing for Ron and I was prank calling people. Mark Gonzales would sometimes be in on this, too. For some reason, Ron had everybody’s phone number… he was friends with everybody. Vert guys. Street guys. Scary guys. Everybody. And on top of that, Ron also had this really great Swatch phone that had two receivers which allowed two people to listen and talk on one end. Basically, we could do dual prank calls with it.
This was a long time ago but the main thing we would do was call a guy… like Steve Saiz or something, and be like, “Hey Steve, what’s up!? Hold one second, dude.” And while Steve was on hold, we’d call a guy like Tom Knox, who probably doesn’t know Steve Saiz or want to talk to him. But right whenever Tom would pick up, we’d click them both over and listen with our side muted. They’d have no idea what was going on. Sometimes they’d talk shit to each other but sometimes they wouldn’t say anything at all so you’d have to un-mute your side and say something into the phone like, “Fuck you!” and then mute it again while they’ll both be like, “Hey, who said that?” That’s when they usually both start talking shit to each other while you listen in. That was fun back then.
Where did the “Focus” come from? Is it really a Karate Kid reference?
I’m not sure about the Karate Kid thing. I didn’t make it up but when I saw it, I thought it was the greatest thing ever.
…Actually, now that I think about it, it was Spike that showed it to me. He couldn’t do it at first and I remember him telling me, “You gotta focus like you’re going to go right through to the cement. You gotta focus.”
Which leads us to Rubbish Heap. What was it like filming for that thing with Spike? Was all that filmed over a couple of days?
I have a bad memory so I’m not totally sure. I know that it wasn’t years of filming like how videos are made now. The thing I remember most is that Spike had this weird idea… maybe it’s true, but he wouldn’t let us watch our footage because he thought it degraded the quality. This was back when we filmed with Hi-8 and I remember being so angry about that.
It was fucked up. We didn’t get to see our footage until the actual day of editing so we didn’t know what to expect. And it wasn’t like we were even working on tricks for our parts. We would just go skating and try things. We’d maybe try something four times or so before moving on to something else. With the exception of a few things, we really didn’t get to try things all that much.
But it is a classic. The backside smith down the handrail was only one of many firsts in that thing. Overall, were you pleased with how the part turned out?
I liked it. I don’t think I was as super-critical back then but I thought it came out okay. The whole video was good because it’s just raw skateboarding.
Who’s idea was it to use the Duck Tales song?
That was my idea. I don’t think they really wanted that in there. But it was just a game that I liked so I thought I’d stick it in there at the beginning. It was hard figuring out a way to record that song back then.
Had you known Spike for very long at this point? It seemed like you two were rolling pretty thick after all that. Did you have any idea that he had all these brilliant concepts floating around in his head? That he’d go on to become this big director?
Not at all. He was usually just shooting photos back then. He was always hanging out over at World so we just started skating together and messing around. But I had no idea he’d end up doing all this crazy shit.
Another one full of surprises: Todd Congelliere. One of the world’s best vert skaters who just upped and quit right as he was starting to blow-up. Did you you know he was gonna burn-out like he did?
No, I didn’t see that coming… but I completely agree with you that he was fucking awesome. He was basically a street skater on vert. And super consistent.
I used to be at his house every single night… hanging out and watching horror movies. Such a great guy. We’d go street skating for a few hours and then go to the grocery store and buy bags of candy… make fun of the New Kids on the Block in all the magazines before going back to his place to watch more shitty horror movies. We did that for years.
But he was one of my favorite vert skaters, for sure. If he would’ve stuck with it, he’d be doing the craziest shit by now. He’d probably be doing big spins on that super ramp railslide thing.
Anything he tried, he did. We’d go street skating and he’d be like, “Yeah, I want to learn big spins to tailslides.” You’d see him do it on a curb and then he’d be doing it on his ramp the next day. It was awesome. He’d do it first on his mini ramp and then take it to vert. Crazy.
Was it difficult for as a World rider as Rocco would bring in more and more new riders so frequently?
Yeah, it was actually. But if I was a little smarter, I could’ve done better over there. I always had a shitty outlook. But it was only a little over a year or so after I turned pro that I left. And everybody had left before me, like Mark and Ron.
It did seem like most of the early riders left around the same time. Was there ever talk of dissatisfaction between you guys around this time? When did you start to think about leaving?
Mark and Ron used to talk shit at the time but I didn’t really have any other place to go. None of us had contracts anyway so whenever we wanted to be done, we could just leave. I wasn’t even thinking about the next thing until Tony contacted me. I actually remember when I told Rocco that I was quitting World, his only response was to kick me off the team… which is pretty funny to tell somebody. If somebody is quitting their job, you can’t fire them at that point. I remember just thinking to myself, “I know… I’m quitting.” Pretty funny.
But it sucked because I really liked and respected Rocco. I wish it wouldn’t have gone down the way it did. His ideas were so awesome.
Was it weird starting Birdhouse with Tony, Powell’s golden child? And was there any fear on your part of possible retaliation from Rocco?
Wow… I didn’t have to deal with any of that, huh? That’s kinda weird. I wonder why not? Kinda bums me out that they didn’t do anything. Maybe because I was just a nobody so it didn’t matter. But no, I wasn’t worried… but looking back on it, I definitely should’ve been.
Tony leaving Powell did seem like a big deal but technically, I don’t think it meant all that much to them because they were so anti-vert back then. I don’t think they were really making all that much money off Tony at that time. Not the kind of money they were used to making years before.
I just remember talking to Tony about it one day. I used to skate with him every once in a while so he had my number. He called me up and told me about this new company and how he was going to talk to Willy and Berra. I said that I’d do it and that was it. That’s when we all really started hanging out more at Tony’s.
Yeah, there definitely seemed to be a real family vibe back then. All of you guys at Tony’s like that…
Berra actually started living there which was fucking funny. He’d get in fights all the time with Tony’s then-wife. Here you have a guy that’s staying at your house for free and he’s fighting with your wife… I love Berra. That’s hilarious.
But yeah, we just hung out there everyday, skating and filming for this video and it just went on from there.
I’ve always loved those early Feasters and Ravers videos. Super homemade and a lot of fun. I always dug your parts as well as you largely ignored the trends of that time by wearing fitting clothes and keeping your skating clean, without any of that crazy late/pressure bullshit. What made you stick to your guns?
That’s a good question and I like that question. There’s two answers for it. One answer is that I fucking hate that shit. The other answer is that I can’t do nor do I ever want to do that shit. Those are the answers. That pressure flip shit is ugly and it’s stupid.
Actually, I do a fucking nollie flip in one… which is funny cause I don’t do nollie flips. I don’t like them. But that was the closest I ever got to doing that stuff. Well, there’s probably a few other things in there but that’s what sticks out in my mind is that fucking nollie flip. That was the only one I ever did and I’ll never do another one.
So where did the idea for Hook-Ups come from? What made you decide to go with an all Japanese animation-based art direction? What’s your role over there these days anyway?
I was just really into that stuff at the time. I really liked that artwork. When I first started seeing it, I remember thinking that there wasn’t enough of that going around. At first, I only wanted to have some shirts with these graphics on it. Nobody was really making things like that so I wanted to make some. Birdhouse was small then and I‘d just gotten a computer... I really wanted to do my own shit and they let me so that’s why.
My role always been the same. I do all the art direction and some of the logo-type stuff. I don’t do any of the drawings… unless it’s like a cat flipping you off or something like that. I’m not that good at drawing.
The brand has had its devotees as well as critics over the years. What is your response to those people that like to take away from Hook-Ups, characterizing it as something less of a skateboard company? That it’s some sort of gimmick?
I didn’t really know that, to be honest. I just thought there were people who knew what it was and collected the stuff but I didn’t know that there were people against it. That’s kinda awesome. My response to them is that I don’t really care. I don’t care what anybody thinks. So that’s my response.
My whole thing is that I love skateboarding and love making skateboards. I no longer ride for a company, I haven’t for five or six years, but I still love to skate. I’m 40 years-old now and will never stop skating.
Speaking of which, I don’t like to read a lot of the stuff on the internet because I think that if you read too much, you obviously go crazy but sometimes people email me questions like: “What the fuck happened to you, dude? Why can’t you do all that stuff anymore?”
Fuck you! I’m 40! It’s called “aging”, dude! What the fuck?! I was 18 when I did all that!
Happens to the best of us. Now throughout the course of your career, you will always be seen as one of the masters of the Beryl Banks. What personally stands out as the gnarliest thing you ever saw go down there? And I’ll even let you claim something that you did there if you want, you’ve earned it…
Oh, I’d never say that.
But people always talk about the big bank there but the little bank with the curb on top is actually way harder to skate. Has anybody done a backside noseblunt on that thing yet?
I’m pretty sure Austyn Gillete did one not too long ago. He’s pro for Habitat.
That’s awesome. I’m a little bit out of it when it comes to these new guys but that’s really good. That’s gotta be one of the hardest things you can do on there.
I remember people doing nollie shit on the big bank, which is definitely hard… but one of the craziest things I saw there was Geoff Rowley going full speed up the flat part that nobody skated and doing a drifting heelflip to fakie. That was probably the gnarliest thing I remember.
Which part is that?
It wasn’t the big round bank and it wasn’t the part with the curb on top, it was in-between the corner where you can do a transfer and the big round bank. It’s this weird flat part of the bank that was just shit. I mean, the whole thing is shit but nobody skated that part. That was awesome.
So how did you and Heath come up with such crazy concepts for The End? I know Berra was involved initially… was this just something that kept snowballing? A jump ramp part in 1998 is pretty insane.
The crazy thing about that part is that we didn’t have permits for about 90-95% of it. The only time we got a permit for was the pier shoot and maybe one or two other things. None of the skating was with a permit. Like when we destroyed that school, that wasn’t permitted. We just did it.
You guys would just pull up to Blockbuster, get out the ramp and skate their sign without checking with them?
Oh no, we didn’t check with anybody because that’s when people start giving you reasons why you can’t skate there.
If you look closely, all that stuff we skated has covers on it. Not that we cared about damaging the signs or anything, it was because that shit didn’t slide or grind. We’d go to each spot that we wanted to skate for this, get the dimensions of the sign and go back to Birdhouse to construct sign covers.
You can obviously tell covers are on there but we had to build that stuff because the signs just didn’t grind. One of the first things we tried to skate was that hump-type sign and without anything on it, you ended up denting the metal. You just stuck. And when you’re up that high, it really sucks to stick.
I do remember the first night we went filming, it fucking sucked. We really didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into. It was so shitty. We thought we’d wasted all this money with these thousand-dollar suits and all this crap.
How did you guys come up with all that shit?
It was seriously from Heath and I sitting at his house, playing Crash Bandicoot and watching fucking Jerry Springer. We would sit there and say all this ridiculous shit… like, “Okay, then we light ourselves on fire and jump off a pier.” Never thinking that we’d actually have to do it. But there we were, putting on this long underwear with all this gel over it and they’re lighting us up. It’s crazy.
So you were saying that you would just show up at those signs and go for it… would they ever call the cops?
It was funny, right in the middle of when we were skating the Blockbuster sign, a fire truck pulled up at a stop light and just sat there. Totally watching us. We both stopped skating and were wondering what was gonna happen next when we hear this little guy’s voice come from over the truck’s intercom, “Go for it.”
That was it. I don’t remember having much trouble because when you have lights and a generator, at least back then, it worked. People thought we were legit.
How was it filming that Millionaire’s Club bit? Did those pornstars have a good sense of humor about the whole thing?
It sucked making that thing. Those girls were the biggest bitches in the world. You’d think a chick that takes a load on her face for a grand would be happy to hang out with some shitty guy in a jacuzzi. I can’t even imagine how they’d be after you came on their faces.
You’d think just hanging out and watching you play video games would be easy money.
That’s what I mean. It was probably the most legit shit those whores had ever done. Here we are legitimizing them with our little skate video. Like there’s that scene the Spanish girl is putting my skateboard together for me... she was the only one still there at that point. The other ones had fucking left.
Now Destroying America was really just an extension of all this mayhem, taken to new heights with Erik Estrada in tow. What was the most dangerous or closest call during the filming of that?
There weren’t that many dangerous calls actually… but you did get burned almost everyday. When you’re setting fires on the dashboard of a car, you have to remember that the ceiling is plastic. When that gets hot, you have strips of hot plastic dripping down on your hands. Little burns. They’re not that bad but getting burned does suck.
Out of all that stuff, what have you found to be your personal favorite unorthodox method of tour van utility?
The best use of the van as far as I’m concerned was using it as an obstacle on tour. We used to do demos all across the United States with that thing. You can grind on top of it or do tricks over it… we were basically showing up with our own obstacles. People seemed to have a good time at those demos.
Yeah, I remember seeing those articles. Such a cool idea… and really different to see. I wonder why nobody else has tried to do anything like that? Makes perfect sense.
I completely agree with you. We had cool skaters on those tours, too: Grecs, Geoff, Heath… Mark, Dan Rogers, went out with us. We had awesome skaters on there.
What was skating with Heath like back then? Were you guys very close or more pulled together by having the same sponsors?
We were hanging out pretty much everyday for like four years or so. Pretty close in that sense. Skating was always fun because we’d just go skate curbs. Curbs are fun to skate. It’s no fun to skate a rail.
When was the last time you talked to him? Have you seen where he retired and biked cross-country?
Oh yeah. We actually went to Matt Ball’s wedding together about a year or so ago… we hung out there.
Now it seemed like you kinda cooled out after Destroying America. You still had a board out but got away from the spotlight a bit. What was it that prompted your decision to retire your board?
What made me retire my board was because Birdhouse made me. I would’ve liked to have kept it going. I love skating and I love having a board out with cool graphics on it. But Birdhouse was being sold at the time and there were some weird things going on over there. I just stopped working for them which is pretty much why that all happened.
I wanted to retire because I kinda already was retired. I’d only have a board come out maybe once or twice a year. I saw it as like riding for Lucero’s Emergency or how Element puts out old guy boards from time to time. Something like that. That’s how I was treating it. Redoing my old graphics and putting those out. I wasn’t coming out with 3 boards a catalog like the newer guys.
What do you say to those critics that say you that maybe should’ve retired sooner?
I’m fine with that. They are probably right for feeling that way.
Birdhouse ran that thing announcing your retirement with the reissue of your very first Birdhouse graphic...
Yeah, that’s what they did. I figured I was retired around 2000. I retired a long time ago. But like I said, I’m a 40-year-old man and I love skateboarding. I don’t care if anybody has a problem with that. Skateboarding is fun.
Well said. So what are you doing now, Jeremy? You said you’re still skating and doing your thing with Hook-Ups. I’ve even seen you doing some stuff with Tom Green.
I’m still doing pretty much the same thing that I’ve always done. I skateboard, I play video games and do Tom’s show sometimes. He’s a friend and we hang out sometimes. He loves skateboarding, too.
But yeah, still doing my company and having a good time with that. One of my best friends owns a small video game company that makes video games for mobile devices so I get to help design games and do some of the graphics. It can be a huge pain in the ass but I love it.
Skateboarding is such a different animal than it was in the heyday of Rocco. What’s your take on skateboarding in 2011?
Skateboarding seems like it’s less of a way of life now. It’s more of a sport. It’s taken a lot more seriously now than it was in the 90’s which has it’s good and bad points.
But here’s the thing: if a pro skateboarder is able to make a bunch of money from it, I’m totally cool with it. I’m saying this because skateboarders usually don’t make a lot of money and once you don’t skate anymore, you’re kinda fucked. If it’s giving money to actual real skateboarders then I can’t say anything bad about that. If I had the opportunity to make a million dollars back then, I’m sure I would’ve been excited about that.
Skateboarding was just so much different back when I was on World because we didn’t make much money and what money you did make was based on what you actually sold. There were no minimums… we didn’t even have contracts. You sell 3,000 skateboards one month, you get a check for $6,000. The next month, the company doesn’t have any of your boards in and you make less money. That sucks. But when you didn’t have any money to begin with, any bit that you get makes you happy.
Just a few quick ones at the end here:
Your part in Rubbish Heap or The End?
Nosepick or Footplant?
Nosepicks. They’re easier.
Candy or Japanese Animation?
Alright Jeremy, thanks so much for doing this. Anything else you’d like to add? Any parting words of wisdom for us?
My words of wisdom, for anybody that actually cares, is to just do whatever you want to do and if anybody talks shit, tell them to fuck off.