chrome ball interview #50: jerry fowler

Chops and Jerry keep it moving.

So do people still think you and Ethan Fowler are brothers? That had to drive you crazy.

We were really close for a minute there when we were young. But yeah, it definitely drove us nuts. I think the last person to ask me that was probably within the last year. I can’t remember who it was but when they asked me, it really tripped me out because I hadn’t heard it in so long and I used to hear it so much.

We just happened to be on the same team with the same last name and that’s how it went. I guess it was too much of a coincidence for people to overlook.

I admit that I thought that for a while. How’d you get hooked up with Mike and Ed?

I was a sophomore in high school and the closest skateshop back then was in Newport Beach. Just by shooting the shit, I became friends with the kid who worked behind the counter and we started going out skating together. He lived in Huntington Beach and he always wanted to skate Huntington High after he got off work, which led to us skating with Ed Templeton a few times. Living in Orange County, I really looked up to Ed. He was the dude and I just loved how he skated: how fast he went and his trick selection. I just dug his whole vibe. I remember he had purple hair the first time I met him which was sick. But I guess I threw out a couple of tricks that Ed really liked… maybe I was trying to impress him, I don’t remember but I probably was.

But Ed and I just hit it off. He was so quiet back then… just a weird older dude but cool. After that first time we skated together, he asked me if I needed a board and gave me a blank deck instead of a New Deal board which I thought was weird. The shape was horrendous. I forget what kind of wood it was but it was this weird yellow board. He told me to let him know whenever I needed another board and ended up getting another one of these crazy shape blank boards a week or two later. I just didn’t get it. They were super wide with these pointy noses and were just horrible but I was hyped on it anyway because it came from Ed.

We started skating together a lot until he finally let me know that he and Mike were thinking about leaving New Deal. I remember just tripping out because, being a skate nerd, that seemed huge! But both of those dudes were the shit. And at this point, even though I’d never met Mike, I probably looked up to him even longer than I had looked up to Ed.

So we finally end up getting together with Mike and I end up shooting a sequence with Christian Kline. That’s when they asked me to join the team. I was totally blown away but had to keep it tight-lipped because they hadn’t actually left New Deal to start TV yet.

TV was your first sponsor?

Yeah, they were my first sponsor. My buddy Kirk and I would make videos all the time back then, just for fun. It was never a solid effort towards getting sponsored or anything. I just got lucky by meeting Ed and it all worked out.
Were you getting down on the artistc tip with those dudes, too? That’s a pretty creative crew.  

Not at all. I was actually the one that was jealous of them having that in common. I just focused on skating and trying to do that while they had all these other things going on. But I was always a sponge around those dudes and I’d try to pick up some of their interests… only to realize that I didn’t really like it (laughs).

Like I remember we were all hanging out once and Ed was working on a painting for a graphic. He tried telling me that I should paint something also and I just remember looking at him like, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

I know he was just trying to include me or maybe spark my interest but I can’t do that stuff.

What about Ed sneaking in to snap a photo of you pissing? Did you ever fall victim to that one?

Not that specifically but he was always trying to pull some shit. Like if he knew you were hooking up with a girl, he’d be the guy to open the door to scope out the situation. That kinda stuff.

Ed’s tweaked. He’s totally a freak but in the most likable way possible. He just walks that fine line between really creepy and really awesome. I love that guy.

So what made you stay with him through all those team changes? That had to be difficult for you being on a company constantly changing its name.

Yeah, it was. They initially started TV with Brad Dorfman, who did Vision before switching over to Television with that guy that did those Zero-Two. Remember those all-vegan shoes that looked like a bunch of griptape and Velcro mashed together? That guy.

But then something else happened… I’m not really sure what because all that stuff was beyond me. All I know is things weren’t working out and starting to get weird. Television ended up going on its own with just Mike doing it out of his house.

It sucked because before all this, I was happy as could be. I couldn’t believe that these dudes wanted me on their team and taking me under their wing. Ed’s getting me on Thunder and Spitfire. I’m getting on Etnies. All of this stuff is just getting thrown at me when, all of a sudden, the guys want to split. Mike wants to continue Television on his own and Ed wants to do Toy Machine. It was this whole weird thing and it was totally up to me to decide. It was so fucked because I had equal amounts of respect for both those dudes and now they’re having a falling out. And that was obvious. I still don’t really know what they were going through but they were parting ways and I was in the unfortunate position of having to choose between them.

Ed wanted to start Toy Machine back under Dorfman, which seemed like a step backward since we’d already tried that route once before… but Mike doing Television out of his house just sounded gnarly. Jahmal ended up staying with Mike for the time being since they had both known each other for so long on the East Coast and that’s where his loyalties were. Ethan and I decided to go with Ed.

Both companies shit the bed. Toy Machine went to Tum Yeto after that second attempt with Dorfman failed and Jahmal joined up with us again after Television ended. But that was such a shitty situation for me, being only 18-years-old and having to make this huge decision.

That’s rough, man. But didn’t Ed turn you pro not too long after all this went down? I think you just had that shared Union part and a few ads and boom, you were taking the dip. How’d that go down?

Yeah, it was really early. We were going back to Dorfman for Toy Machine when Ed says to me, “Well, I guess we need more pros so you and Ethan are now pro.”

I remember wondering if that was a compliment or an insult. But all he had made at this point was a shirt. No boards. This was right before that summer’s Big 3 European and here we are going, trying to hype up this new company with one shirt. I skated the same board that entire trip… a blank board that didn’t even have the logo on it. I don’t even think we had stickers yet. It was just that shirt.

Crazy. So you weren’t even trying to go pro at that point, it was basically out of necessity? You had to be freaked out!

Totally freaked out. Here I am on this course and I’m so happy because I can watch Ocean Howell skate. It wasn’t even dawning on me that I was actually there to compete. I was still just a fan!  The first contest I rode in was a Back to the City and my run came right after Salman Agah. I just remember thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me? I can’t go after him!”

Talk about your Live part… which seemed to be your big coming out party with getting the curtains and the whole nine. What was that like? Did you take it all that seriously or were you guys just having fun?

It was definitely not taken seriously though it probably should’ve been. It’s funny looking at that company now and comparing it to then. Unbelievable. There were no filming trips or anything like that... totally stress-free. I don’t even think we had a deadline. We just decided to look at what we had one day and we ended up putting it together.

I had no idea I was getting last part. Ed called me one day and told me to come down to El Cajon in the middle of nowhere because we were going to edit my part that night. I had to bring down any new footage I’d shot since the last time I saw him and to have a song picked. I totally forgot about the song so I go back out to my car once I got there to find a cassette tape real quick. I had no idea what was actually on the tape I found but it turned out to be a bunch of oldies so we used that Santana song.

It was cool but also pretty retarded. Definitely not a lot of thought was put into that thing.

Did you like how it came out?

It was before I really started popping tricks but very indicative of how my skating was at the time. Definitely very young. And I was still green so I was just flattered to be in a video.

Well, the big question is what the hell happened after that between you and Toy Machine? I know you went on some tour and that was it. The guy with the last part in the new video isn’t on the team anymore. Can you talk about what went down?

This is kind of a negative topic and it’s hard not to diss Ed by answering this question but I’ll answer it.

What happened was I had a hard time with the fact that Ed brought his wife on tour with us. It just ruined the vibe of us going on a company tour. She was driving, she was in charge of the money and at the end of the day, we had to put up with them arguing within their dynamic. It wasn’t 100% fun, which was a shitty thing, and I know Ed was being put into the middle a lot because she was getting into it with us a lot, too.

This was all so long ago and I’m sure if it was brought up to her now that she’d regret the way it went down as much as I do. But we were so young. I should’ve never gotten into it with her. I just shouldn’t have gone on the trip at all. Or maybe I should’ve taken the high road and not said anything. But I definitely look back and wish that it would’ve worked out differently. I would’ve skated for Toy Machine my entire career. I love Ed and have nothing but respect for him.

But that’s basically what went down; there were arguments between Deanna and Ed, Deanna and me and between Deanna and other guys on the team. There was something everyday and it became this thing so I just left in the middle of the tour.

I didn’t talk to anybody for a month. When I finally went down to Tum Yeto for the first time after that, I talked to the Mark Waters, who was TM at the time, and was just honest with him. He knew I wasn’t happy but didn’t want me to quit and actually got me on Foundation for a little while.  I’d already been skating with Josh Beagle and Heath Kirchart a lot. But I had such a bad taste in my mouth from that whole tour experience that I had to go. Jahmal also quit after that tour for the same reason.

Then it spilled out to the magazines…

Yeah, it got all flipped around in the magazines. I remember seeing a ton of shit being reported which really sucked. Back then, magazines didn’t gave a shit about personal attacks and I read in two magazines that I’d gotten kicked off. I knew that it wasn’t true but it’s impossible to read something false about yourself and not get pissed off.

But that’s the short version of the story. This answer could be a lot longer and I could go further into details but I won’t.

Damn, well after that, you totally broke out and started going up to Boston to do your thing. You’re so heavily-identified with that area, I think some people might be surprised to learn that you’re not native. What brought up there?

I came through Boston a few times back in the day with TV and then Toy Machine. But I basically got up there through meeting Panama Dan. Even after I’d left Toy, we kept in touch and I took advantage of his invitation to have me up there. All it took was one trip and I was hooked.

The city is fucking awesome. Just the vibe of it. Total street skating… the definition of street skating. No worries. Just go off with no agenda, run into people and take off from there. I didn’t have that out West. Not to shit on California but you have to drive 3 hours there just to skate for 10 minutes and then get kicked out. And that’s it. Everyone goes home. People here hang out here after you skate… have a barbecue or hit up a bar. In California, it’s, “Alright, session is done. Call me tomorrow.”

Boston seemed a lot friendlier and more of a skating lifestyle. It’s the full package.

How did Rhythm come into the picture? Weren’t you an OG on that squad, too?

Yeah, I was around for that. I didn’t actually get on Planet Earth for a while there because of the timing of everything. What happened was, being in-between sponsors, I cold-called Mirko Mangum one day. I’ve always felt comfortable around Mirko just because he’s a nice dude. But I told him that I didn’t have a sponsor and was wondering if he could help me out with some wood until I got on my feet. I didn’t really know anybody else over there so I figured that it was just whatever but they sent me two boards and a pair of chinos. I was psyched!

I started meeting up with Felix and Jeff Taylor after that. Jeff was in the position where he wasn’t exactly skating for Planet Earth and I wasn’t sure what his deal was but they ended up telling me that they were going to be starting another company. I thought it was sick so I kept in the loop with those dudes; skating with Felix and learning more about what they had planned. That’s pretty much how it worked. Felix was super-motivated and it was cool to be around him with all of these ideas.

It’s kind of weird agreeing to the idea of something… there isn’t any product to look at yet so you’re just hoping you like it. And it was a weird situation as I was getting paid by Planet Earth but I wasn’t technically skating for anybody. That’s was everybody’s thing, we were all skating Planet Earth stuff but knowing that Rhythm was going to start soon and it was going to be cool.

Seemed like a super-tight crew but I’ve read in interviews where you felt like you never fit in on the team. Why was that?

I don’t really know. I guess it was a little “fresh”, ya know? I guess the vibe and image of what the company went with I was never too keen on… but just because it wasn’t my thing doesn’t mean being on Rhythm was a bad thing. I was happy there. I didn’t like a lot of the stuff they made but I loved those guys. I loved being on a team where I felt accepted and could skate the way I wanted to with their support.

But isn’t that what basically happened between you guys was a disagreement over art direction?

Yeah, I was pretty much an asshole. I talked shit to Jose Gomez within earshot of Chris Miller and my mouth got me cut.  At the time, Chad Muska and Tom Penny were wearing those beanies with the bills and every fucking kid started wearing them, too. I thought they were the stupidest things ever but I happened to see Jose designing one of those beanies with the Rhythm logo on it one day and I just let him have it. Really laying into him. But looking back on it, why do I care? Fucking make them, who cares? Even though I thought I had a valid point, I didn’t put a lot of thought into what I was saying and came off like a prick and a bad employee. Chris heard me and that was that. I got a call from the team manager shortly thereafter and was let go.

You did hang around long enough for that incredible part in Hiatus. It’s crazy to see your style evolve so quickly over a few years like that. Was filming for this one any different than with Toy and Ed? Was Ty Evans involved at all?

Ty was definitely around for Hiatus and I know he filmed a lot but my part was still mostly my buddies filming me.

Personally, I’ve always gone about my parts as trying to be representative of how I’m skating at the time. I never have a trick list or anything. I just get what I get without too much pressure. When the video’s supposed to be done, I look at what I have and that’s what we go with. I think that approach or lack thereof is a better interpretation of how I’ll be skating if you see me tomorrow. It’s not so contrived. We’re not going to sit at a spot for four hours a day and try this impossible trick.

Your parts always do have a lot of flow…

I’m not saying that all this stuff comes easy but there is very little planning with regard to the process. Yeah, there’s certain things that I want to do and if I get them, great. But if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. But Hiatus was much like Toy Machine: let’s just film and have fun.

Do you have a personal favorite video part of your own? Because that no-comply to fakie 5-0 in the DNA piece is still awesome.

I do like that DNA part because of how my life was at the time. I was just skating and traveling a ton. I really like some of my 411 parts because there were so organic. It wasn’t like we were trying to make them look care-free… and it wasn’t, that stuff was work. But it wasn’t like we were punching in a clock or something.

So what was it like riding for DNA? It had to be good getting back on the same team with Jahmal but it seemed like the company never really found its niche.

To be totally honest, it just prolonged my career. It gave me boards and money. I was allowed to travel and keep being who I was. I tried to get into that company and make things that I wanted but it was clear after a while that it was just a skateboard factory. That’s going to sound really horrible actually…

Did they just not care what the riders thought while they pumped out their shit?

Yeah, at the end of the day, they were just looking at the numbers and the numbers happened to be there for a while. But when they weren’t, that was it. On to the next thing. You see that all the time. A distribution company will have 10 different companies and they’re just hoping that 5 of them hit. And when the other 5 don’t, you’re gone.

But no, I wasn’t really invested. I love Jason Maxwell, for sure. But that company could’ve been more than it was. It just didn’t have the creative push. The people making the real decisions didn’t have it. You can’t dictate the products and the art direction of the company while keeping the skaters out. You can’t do that.

So after DNA, you went underground for a bit. I know you had a few periods where you didn’t have a board sponsor before but were you just over it at this point?

I basically had a quarter-life crisis. I’d been dating this girl who was very career-minded and she got me thinking about what the fuck I was going to do in life because skating wasn’t going to last forever. I was already done probably a year or so before DNA finally ended. They knew it was on its way out so I started going to school, trying to get my ducks in a row.

I wasn’t skating that much, just whenever I could. But I was honest with Jason Maxwell when he’d call. He’d talk about sending me a box for the month and I’d tell him not to (laughs).

I always had a board and was still friends with everyone in the scene but my priorities were elsewhere. I was more focused on what was next. How I was going to make money and survive.

You’ve been working as an EMT then firefighter for quite some time now, which I know is very important to you, but when were you presented with the idea for Hopps? I know you and Jahmal have always been friends but did the timing of the opportunity take you by surprise?

I remember Jahmal running all these different names by me back in 2007, saying he was thinking about starting his own board company. He said that things weren’t happening for him sponsor-wise but he felt like he had too many ideas. He just didn’t give a shit anymore. He wanted to come up with graphics and make some boards on his own and I thought it was fucking rad. I know that it’s something he’d been wanting to do for a while. Jahmal’s always doing so much art anyway.

Hopps started when he was in Miami and I remember him calling me one day to say he’d just sent me a box. When I got it, I was so hyped on how rad everything was. Really solid. But I didn’t really hear anything more from him as far as Hopps was concerned for another two years until he approached me about being part of it officially.

All I could say was, “Why?”

I hadn’t even been skating that much… more than I had been but still. But he told me that he wanted me to be involved so I agreed. It was pretty easy actually. Jahmal has always been one of the most creative and sincere people and I think that comes across with both him and the brand. That’s a big reason why he’s been one of my best friends for so long.

But I have a realistic view of everything. I’m not trying to be who I was. I’m not trying to relive the life I had already lived; skating all of the time and getting footage and all this shit. Jahmal knows that and accepts that. I’m going to skate when I can and if I can’t, I can’t. But I’m psyched. To see the stuff he has done and the things that he’s going to do is fucking rad. Always so original.

What do you guys have coming up next for Hopps? Seems like things are wide open for the brand and people are definitely interested… I know I am. What’s in store?

Right now, I’m trying to get a few clips to contribute to Static 4. It’s not a full-on Hopps section but Jahmal is going to have a part and we’re all going to be in there. So there’s that and we also have this other video thing that we’re working on for the brand.

Static 4 has been in the works for years now. Anything you can tell us about it just yet? Any idea when we’ll actually be able to see it?

No clue. I believe in Josh and know that he’s his harshest critic so I know he won’t put out anything that sucks. He was just up here recently working on it. He knows that it is an anticipated video but he’s going to handle it and it’s going to be sick.

Can’t wait for that. So I often ask the subjects of these interviews who they consider to be the most underrated skater of the 1990s and your name has come up more than a few times. Do you think there were aspects of your career that went underappreciated or didn’t get their proper due?

Do I feel like I didn’t get enough shine? No. I don’t feel that way at all. To hear that people think that is awesome but I don’t feel that I’m owed anything or that something should’ve have gotten more praise than it did. At the end of the day, I don’t know what I could’ve done more than what I did. But that’s cool to hear.

Alright Jerry, that’s all I have. Can’t thank you enough for doing this. As we bring this thing to a close, is there anything you’d like to add?

Well, my wife and I just had twins in March and I definitely want to include them in here. It’s totally changed our lives and I honestly can’t believe how psyched I am to be a Dad… probably because I never thought I’d ever be one. But it really is the coolest thing in the world. I love my girls.

Other than that, I’d just like to thank everybody who’s supported me over the years through everything. I really appreciate it.

special thanks to Hopps, Orchard Skateshop, Rick J and Jerry for taking the time.  

CBI will return on Monday, November 12th. 


Brendan said...

Great follow up to the Ed post,Chops.
Any plans on chrome ballin' Steve Berra?

Unknown said...

Really good to read up on Jerry and know he's doing good. His story is a tough one because he was and I'm sure still is very talented in a skateboard. If only that were enough. So many good dudes slip through and disappear. I'm stoked to hear about Hopps and look forward to seeing stuff from him and Jahmal too! Keep on rolling my friends. The Wray Bros will hopefully see you both out there soon :)

Unknown said...

*on a skateboard* ha! Tough to be 'in' a skateboard :)

Anonymous said...

That's a real skater right there!

leeberman said...

Awesome read Jerry!!

scott said...

i remember thinking he and ethan were brothers and could have sworn there was an old 411 'brothers' section with the both of them back day. maybe it was a joke, or maybe it's just my bad memory. the 90's were crazy. great read chops! always wondered what happened to jerry, so great to hear he is doing well. congratulations on the twins!
shout out to jeremy wray!

Ross said...


vincent said...

shout out to Jeremy Wray x2! thank you for chiming in.

Jerry Fowler is a unique skateboarder.

Jeff Thorburn said...

Great read, Jerry seems like a really cool guy. That fakie tailslide to fakie photo is a beauty! Thanks for taking the time to do this, Chops and Jerry.

Keith said...

cool interview. Thanks Eric and Jerry. Dude always came across as really talented, had a lot of tricks and seemed casual on a board.

lol Ed having two goes at a company with Dorfman seems like such a bad idea.

Cool to hear about why he left Toy. Nice honest answer.

That yellow slanted highway divider ledge thing looks fun.

I can't picture him as a firefighter. He always seemed like a little guy in skate videos.

1/4 life crisis lol. I've never heard that one before.

I slept through the whole dna era. Never even knew it was a company.

Anonymous said...

always loved jerry's style.

Anonymous said...

Smooth lines and quick feet, throw that in for a good eye and that's Jerry. And Keith 1/4 life crisis is no joke, one should question one's self no and again

DTZ said...

Yes ! The no comply fakie 5-0 is still amazing.... so good.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, super tight guy. Used to skate with him at HB High back in the day , and after go get hamburgers and listen to a Cash song. I believe it was Ring of Fire. I'm so stoked to hear your doing good. Take care Jerry. JB

Dustin Umberger said...

Great read, well done. I have always respected Jerry's skating and his smooth approach. I'm glad people are as stoked on the no-comply fakie 5-0! Also stoked to see Mr. Wray's comments. Hope you're still skating and making art!

Anonymous said...

After 14 years of skating, Jerry Fowler still remains in my attraction to skateboarding. Thank you for this great interview and good to hear things are going good with him.

Anonymous said...

Incredible read. Thanks again for an incredible interview.

Justin Kelley said...

So awesome. This dude is a ripper and always has the most creative footage. Biggest respect goes out to him.

Jason Rothmeyer said...

Great interview Chops. Good to see you picked Jerry, excellent choice.
Ahh the 90's, where we just randomly filmed stuff all the time and poof, it was a video part. I can't think of any single video I filmed for where there was an actual deadline. I just wish I would have stuck around long enough for good cameras, good lenses and all that. The bro-cam filming just doesn't have the same appeal as the tight angle and good camera does.

trademark monitoring said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

No, JB

Anonymous said...

Awesome interview, Jerry seems like a good guy. I really like the toy machine "live" part too. Good work Chops & Jerry!

-Andy in Boston

kendallseo said...

Nice interview!
Miami Chrysler

Miami Dodge Dealer said...

Great read, Jerry seems like a really cool guy. That fakie tailslide to fakie photo is a beauty! Thanks for taking the time to do this, Chops and Jerry.

cruise_elroy said...