chrome ball interview #95: jason adams

Chops and Kid on the Lost Highway. 

You once compared your skate career to a cult film that bombed on its release but has steadily grown in popularity over the years since. I love this comparison but can you explain a little more what you meant by that? Do you still feel this way?

(laughs) I guess it still makes sense.

I just meant that I was not the blockbuster hit when I first came out, for sure. At the time, punk rock was definitely not the most popular thing going in skateboarding but somehow, I’ve always had enough of a following in the underground to make it… punk rockers and just people who are into weird shit. These are my people.

If there’s one thing I can say about my fans over the years, it’s that they’ve always been the type who are kinda nerdy about everything. The dudes who were, like, really into Star Trek back in high school… which is cool, because honestly, I’m one of them. I’m a nerd, too. I love that shit.

I just never got the cool hip-hop kids that get laid all the time. Those kids have never been my supporters. Oh well. (laughs)

One thing that’s always stood out about Jason Adams is your unique trick selection. How much does style and fun come into play with your tricks versus technicality and trend?

It’s basically all stuff I want to do. It’s always been a mixture of what I like with a little of what was going on at the time. This was a conscious decision I made early on to try and do.  

Looking back on everything, I think the main difference for me is that I never looked at pro skateboarding as a competition. It just wasn’t like that for me. I always saw it more as a vehicle to express my point of view, which is probably how I was able to get into art later on as well.

I’ve basically been trying to never let go of the skateboarding I was introduced to when I was young. To me, skateboarding will always be Santa Cruz Skateboards in the ‘80s. I never wanted to leave that time.

photo: humphries

But if you look at your parts from 10-15 years ago: no complies, wallies, slappies and footplants… hell, even toecaps, all of which are now considered “cool” when maybe they weren’t so much at the time.

I will tell you that they definitely were not considered cool at the time. (laughs)

Do you feel like you were ahead of your time with this stuff or possibly so behind that you got lapped? (laughs)

I don’t know if I can say that I was doing anything “ahead of my time” or whatever. I don’t think I have the skill to hang with all of the stuff that’s going on now but if there is something I did that lent itself to all that, that’s cool. These kids doing wallie 50-50s down huge hubbas? I wish I could do that but it’s cool watching somebody else get it. To be able to watch skateboarding that relates to me and have it be looked upon favorably is awesome.

I’ll admit that I got a kick out of going completely upstream. I’m proud to say that I did have that extra bit of “fuck you” in me, even within the world of “fuck you” that is skateboarding. (laughs)

Granted it was the early 90s but it was shocking when I first found myself working in the skateboarding industry. I quickly realized the whole thing was exactly like the one thing I was fighting against: high school. This circle of people was just like high school all over again with their fucking cliques and bullshit. It seriously bummed me out.

So right off the bat, I got my kicks doing exactly what everyone else was not doing. It could be a bit of insecurity and lack of confidence on my part, I don’t know. I just think I like to say “fuck you” no matter what. I really get a kick out of it.

photo: morford

How much pressure did you receive from sponsors to skate or dress a certain way?

A little bit but not too bad. Back then, it was mainly all about your board sponsor and I always aligned myself with people who understood what I was trying to do. I’d often take less money in order to work with people I was comfortable with. But with that in mind, even early on, I’d still do some of my wallride shit and people would laugh at it.

“Those aren’t even real tricks, dude.”

I wouldn’t say it was easy for me over the years but I did always feel like I had some respect. I think people dug what I was trying to do, they just didn’t necessarily want to work with me.

“Yeah, it’s awesome… but it ain’t that awesome.”

Sponsors were one thing but getting coverage in magazines was way harder. Magazines were probably the most trend-driven out of anything in the industry at that time. To this day, Thomas Campbell tells the story of sending photos he shot of Tim Brauch and I into Transworld.

“What the fuck is this? We want handrails and green grass.”

Everything had to be clean concrete, handrails and green grass on the side. That was Transworld’s thing in the 90’s, which is pretty limited. Magazine coverage represented the biggest challenge for me.

photo: rodent

You mentioned your love of 80’s Santa Cruz, you were right in that mix growing up in San Jose. How was coming up in such a heavy scene as a grom? SJ doesn’t fuck around.

It was great because even though I was young, I knew enough to mind my Ps and Qs. There definitely were a lot of Santa Cruz team guys here with Corey and Kendall doing the Warehouse. That brought in a lot of people, for sure. But I grew up in a neighborhood where hazing was still a thing. You learned real quick how to act if you wanted to hang. I never got the brunt of anything because I knew the rules. If you went to a mini-ramp and older dudes were there, you probably weren’t gonna be able to skate. And if you did make the cut that day, don’t get in anybody’s way or you’re gonna get screamed at and someone’s probably gonna throw your board over the fence. That’s just how it was.

I just felt fortunate to even be around those guys.

photo: yelland

But after growing up around these guys, many of which you now consider close friends, do you think these relationships have played into the self-deprecating view of your own 25+ year career? That those guys are the “pros” and you’re still just “The Kid”?

I remember going to a NSA Regional contest at the San Jose Skatepark and JJ Rogers was there, rolling around. He was fucking hammered… and it’s, like, noon. He had this black hair dye in his hair from the night before and from where he’d been sweating, it’s all running down his face. He wasn’t wearing a shirt either, so all this black is running down his chest, too. He didn’t care. I thought he was out of his mind until I looked over at his crew and quickly realized that they were all like that, too. I thought they might’ve all been satanic or something. It kinda freaked me out but at the same time, I was so stoked on them.

It wasn’t long after that when I actually started getting to know those dudes. I was fresh out of high school so I was skating the skatepark during the day, which is big for those older guys. Even though I was the new “street kid”, they realized that I liked punk so they liked me right off the bat. While everybody else wanted to be the Beastie Boys, I wore Black Flag shirts and had purple hair. I also think Tim and I made it quite clear that we wanted to wave the San Jose flag and carry on the tradition, which stoked them out. So yeah, it wasn’t a long time between being terrified by them and becoming their friend.

But yes, you’re absolutely right about those grown-ass men influencing my views over the years, 100%. Corey and those guys are actually the ones who gave me the nickname. They started referring to me as “The Kid” on a trip one time and it just stuck. And I’ve always been way more influenced by what was going on skating-wise in San Jose than I was by the rest of the world. Transworld? Thrasher? Whatever. My whole world was right here.

There was just so much attitude back then. That’s really what this place was all about.  Slapping curbs, bashing coping, making noise, being fucking punk and spitting on your friends. It was the best, man. Skate hard, get drunk, be retarded and do it all over again tomorrow.

You started making a name for yourself as a Think OG. What were those early days like at such a small operation?

I was on Santa Cruz first but things weren’t really working out there. Because I was also on Venture at the time, Greg Carroll hooked me up on Think. Not a lot of people know this but when Think first started, it was through Dogtown. It was literally Think t-shirt screens on blank Dogtown boards. Those were actually the first Think boards.

Back then, the team was just amateurs: Shawn Mandoli, Karl Watson, Nick Lockman, Sam Smyth…

The Missing Children.

Exactly, the Missing Children and me. Ronnie got on shortly after that. It’s funny because it seems like I was on Think for such a long time but it was only maybe a year and a half. I turned pro and 6 months later, I left.

We were all so young, though. I didn’t have a clue about what was going on. Even when I turned pro, all I knew is that meant I wouldn’t have to work at my Dad’s heating and air-conditioning company. That’s how I looked at it.

I just wanted skate everyday, smoke weed and try to make out with chicks. At 17, that’s your mode.

What about your debut in Partners in Crime? That had to be fun. What was that, a couple weeks?

That part was total fun. It was in the beginning of the video era so you could get away with fun still. But again, I was just clueless.

“Hey, this dude Jake is gonna come and film you.”

“Oh… okay. Whatever.”

All of sudden, Jake Rosenberg’s around filming me. No big deal. I’m just gonna go out and do everything I did the day before, only someone is filming it now. You skated the same spots and did your same go-to tricks before moving on to the ones you had to try a little harder on. That’s how it was. There was no thought put into “video parts” back then. Definitely no pressure or coaching. You just go skating with a filmer and after a while, they tell you the video is done.

“Okay, cool!”

I remember the first time Tobin Yelland hit me up to go take photos, I didn’t even know what that meant. Photos? What do I do?

“Well, where you do want to skate?”

“I like to skate Gunderson, I guess.”

“Ok, let’s go there! What do you want to shoot there?”

“Ummm… well, I did this last time?”

“Yeah!?! Do it again!”

I had no idea what I was doing but I ended up getting 3 photos in the mag from that one day.

photo: yelland

But did you really feel like you were ready for being pro?

Fuck no! Not only wasn’t I ready, I didn’t deserve a goddamn thing! I think I’d had maybe 2 photos in a magazine by that point? But they turned me pro and the machine went into action. Here’s a Venture ad, here’s a couple Think ads… Lance Dawes is gonna give you a Slap interview. They had the connections to line shit up.

I had no idea what being a “professional skateboarder” meant. I didn’t know about work ethic other than just wanting to skate good. I’d do whatever they asked but I didn’t take it seriously. In my mind, because skateboarding was so dead at the time, being pro was nothing. I figured that it was always going to be small and I just didn’t give a fuck. I was planning on a 3-year career, at most. I figured I could party for 3 years or so and it’d be fun.

What were your thoughts on Think becoming the “rave” company? Because at the same time, you had Bad Religion graphics!

Yeah, I wanted my first board to be a straight rip-off but Keith had his own way of doing graphics so it became “influenced” by Bad Religion. Ironically, I showed up that day to get my picture taken wearing a Black Label t-shirt and they made me change it.

“Why are you fucking wearing that again!?!”

I was just hyped on skateboarding and at the time, I was into Black Label and Alien Workshop.

By that same point, those guys were really getting into rave stuff. Keith and Greg were all about it… which is one of the big reasons why I bailed. I just thought it was so lame.

You also have to remember that we weren’t making a ton of money off board sales back then, especially for a smaller company like Think. You’d get a check one month for $100 bucks. You get another one the next month for $180 bucks. It didn’t matter, I was living with my parents anyway. But when I got the opportunity to ride for SMA and get a whole $500 monthly guarantee? Fuck yeah! (laughs)

photo: kanights

We still don’t see the typical Jason Adams trick selection at this point though. It’s still a bit trend-driven, right?

I was young, man. I was out skating with my friends and basically just trying to do what all I saw going on around me. Trying what everybody else thought was cool. I hadn’t really found my way yet but I could already tell that I was going to need a different approach. I was skating around Mike Carroll and Henry Sanchez a lot in San Francisco back then and it was laughable. Just look at those guys! What the hell am I even doing out here!?!

I had to mature a bit and gain some confidence first before I could go out and try doing my own thing. To be known for me. I honestly didn’t even have the skills at that point to really do what I wanted to either.

What was the breaking point?

It came around the time I got on SMA. Greg Carroll had taken me under his wing with Think at such a young age that I don’t think I ever had much of a voice there. I got on SMA as a pro, which gave me more of a say in things.

I was still trying to keep up at this point. Varial late flips and switch backside 180 heelflips… so funny. But I remember going out skating one day and coming home so frustrated. I had a really bad temper back then and on this particular day, I had two hissy fits, broken my board again and wanted to shoot myself in the face. I was so mad… until I just broke. I just didn’t care anymore. I decided from then on out, I was going to do whatever the fuck I wanted to do. I don’t care about flipping my board anymore. I want to go fast, I want to do big ollies and I want to have fun.

At this point, I wasn’t that great of a mini-ramp skater but I was trying to learn transition behind the scenes. I always loved Tom Knox and Eric Dressen and they could skate everything. I wanted to be like that, too. Transition’s not “cool” right now or whatever but fuck it. I’m going to teach myself how to skate that way, which definitely took a while for me but I loved doing it.

Luckily, I got on SMA as I was starting to hang around Tim Brauch everyday. Skating with him is how I really learned to skate everything so much better.

Those Wonder Twin graphics were a highpoint for SMA at this time.

Yeah, SMA was fun because we could do whatever we wanted. There were no rules. Everyone had just left the company so they just threw together a pro team to fill the hole and turned us loose. A Descendents graphic? A Sex Pistols graphic? Fucking cool! They loved it!

It was our idea to start marketing us together. We lived together and skated everyday together so it made sense. I think the Wonder Twins graphic specifically with the boards fitting together and everything was Tim’s idea. I remember us telling SMA about it and they loved it. Those boards did pretty well for us back then.

photo: dawes

You’ve called the years during your Creature and Scarecrow tenure a “dark time” for you. What do you mean by that?

Skating for Russ wasn’t the problem. I was just partying too hard. I’d just moved downtown and was starting to meet a lot of the older San Jose guys, like Corey O’Brien and Reeps. My usual crew were all in relationships at the time so these older dudes took me under their wing. I just wanted to get wasted and they had the whole downtown scene on lockdown. I wasn’t even of age yet but I could still go party with them through a bro deal and the backdoor.

It wasn’t all bad but I definitely started drinking way too much, which began to get in the way of my skating. And anytime you’re drinking for days on end, it will result in depression, big time, which is exactly what happened. It could get dark.

Looking back on things now, I realized that I wasn’t ready to have turned pro when I did. I was intimidated by everything without really wanting to admit it to myself. I was running away from it. I had no idea what I was doing or what was gonna happen to me… Fuck it, I’m just gonna party.

It was a depressing way to live because I knew I wasn’t giving it my all.

On a lighter note, how was skating with Simon Woodstock on Sonic as his crazy costume antics started to takeoff? I imagine it being pretty rad at first…

Ok, first off, the whole Sonic thing was a mess. Even though it was the O’Briens and San Jose, it was just a mess.

I’ve known Simon Woodstock forever. My first sponsor was Simon’s shop, Winchester Skateshop, and yeah, he was still a clown and all that but he was also a really fucking good skateboarder.

Even when he first started doing all that clown shit, it was rad. When he showed up at the Back to the City contest with a skimboard, I thought it was one of the best things to ever happen. I loved it because he was just taking the piss out of the whole thing. Showing up at the Quartermaster cup with the carpet board? So cool. It was punk, man. Crazy carpet shorts with a huge crazy chain wallet and pink hair… he was a punker back then. And he had cool moves, too! That skimboard stuff was awesome!

It just got out of control. It got to a point where he wasn’t even skating anymore. He was just laying around in bed, thinking of wacky ideas. He’s a market genius but he just got too fucking crazy. His ideas were always amazing but he could never take himself out of the equation. He always took things too far.

What was wrong with Sonic?

It’s nothing against those dudes, it just wasn’t a good time for the company and I never felt like I fit in there.

I was looking for a new board sponsor because Scarecrow didn’t feel the same anymore after the change of ownership. I was skeptical from the beginning but again, with the O’Briens and San Jose, I just went with it.

The main reason I got on Sonic was because it was at NHS. With Tim on Santa Cruz and Chet on Creature, I just wanted to be in the van with the homies. That was good enough for me. Simon was really pressuring me to do it, too.

I instantly regretted it. Sonic was like the red-headed stepchild at NHS since they didn’t truly own it. I didn’t understand that going in. I also didn’t realize beforehand that Simon just wanted me around as his sidekick to make it look like he skated a lot. He was only doing gag advertising at this point.

The fact is that they couldn’t sell enough product with the percentage they were getting to actually pay people. After a while, I just opted to walk with no hard feelings. I kinda floated around for a while after that.

What about the “Suburban Cowboy” ad with the frontside boardslide in full cowboy gear? Was that a make?

Yeah, that’s a make. The best thing about that one is Vans sent those cowboy boots to China in order have waffle soles put in for me. They actually glued waffle soles to the bottom of these boots I found in a thrift store. I wish I still had those things.

Honestly, that ad felt like me once again giving a bit of the middle finger.

“Oh, punk’s cool now? Well, now I’m into country music. Fuck you!” (laughs)

How would you describe the Beautiful Men’s Club and why do you think it appealed to so many people?

I have no idea why it appealed to people the way it did. Maybe because it was a cool logo and people liked doing the salute? I don’t know. It’s crazy because it grew out of a joke. Salman called someone a “beautiful man”… now we’re all beautiful men. A bunch of people with no jobs and way too much time on their hands. We kinda wanted to do something but it’s not like we actually wanted to work at it… so we end up putting all this time, energy and creativity into drinking instead. (laughs)

It was all very loose. Anybody could be in it because who cares? Ed Templeton was in it and he didn’t even drink. Tim and I just did the salute everywhere we went and people liked it so we’d put them on, too.

We realized it was getting crazy when we started going places and noticing these strange local chapters. We went to Japan and found one that had made its own shirts and stickers. We had all these guys giving us the salute. Same thing happened in Germany and Australia.

“Who are these guys? What the fuck!?!”

I think the majority of it came from Tim traveling so much. He was so friendly and people just loved him. Wherever he went, he just wanted to hang out and make friends. It stoked people out. I’ll still go to far-off places that I’ve never been to, years after Tim had been there, and not only are people giving me the salute, they also have Tim Brauch tattoos. He touched so many people.

photo: kanights

All these years later, how do reflect on your friendship with Tim?

To be honest, I don’t know how to answer that. It’s been so long.

We were so tight. He was one of my very best friends and it was like losing a family member for me. All I know is when he died, I knew everything was going to be different from then on out. He had that much of an impact on my life and our scene.

To me, the BMC died with Tim. It was all over after that. People around here will still try to keep it going. I’ll be nice about it and give my little salute when the time is right but I’m always thinking “You’re dumb” in the back of my mind.

Everyone knows he was the nicest guy, I want people to know how great of a skateboarder he was. People are so used to seeing skating in videos a certain way but Tim skated that way everyday. He didn’t go into “filming a part” mode or whatever. He just raged. 

He went for it everyday… with skating and partying. He might’ve looked like Captain America but that motherfucker partied. I couldn’t keep up with the dude. He’d rage, wake up in a good mood and go rip while I’m under the car in cold sweats.

I know that right before he died, he was getting flack from his sponsors because they didn’t know how to market him. Everyone knew what a rad dude he was but no one knew how to sell him. Etnies loved him and knew he deserved to be on their signature program, they just didn’t know how to make it work.

It’s a shame because in the weeks before his death, his mode was: “Alright, you want a fucking video part? I’ll give you a fucking video part.”

He was just getting started. He was going to triple-kink rails and it was on. He was determined. The day that he died, he 50-50’d a good size flat handrail and kickflipped out. People weren’t really doing that at the time. He was really starting to drop some shit but nobody got to see all that was possible for him.

Did Tim’s passing help fuel your Label Kills part?

After Tim died, a lot of shit happened. First off, I met my now-wife at the first Tim’s Skate Jam and she ended up getting pregnant ASAP. That was crazy.

I also got on Black Label at this time, which was amazing. I’d been without a sponsor for a little while and I honestly thought I was done. It didn’t seem like anyone wanted to sponsor me anymore. I was going back and forth about Lucero because while I always loved the company but I wasn’t sure. I’d always been able to make a living from skateboarding. Pay my rent and bills and feed myself. But at the time, Black Label was out of Lucero’s garage and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get by like that. I just had to say fuck it. I’m done anyway so I’ve really got nothing to lose. Let’s do this.

Next thing I know, Lucero starts talking about wanting to do a video. Right away, I’m down. This is something I really wanted to go for because I realize this might be my last chance. It’s time to not be such a drunken retard, get my act together and actually try to film a real video part. To do something I could be proud of.

Luckily for me, skateboarding was growing and Black Label was about to explode. It was all amazing timing.

It was a serious part to drop after not seeing much of you for a minute.

Yeah but I can’t take full credit here. Lucero had the vision. Not that Russ didn’t support me but Lucero was always so hyped on my wacky ideas. He knew how to let me go about doing whatever I wanted while still being able to put it all together and package it well.

At the same time, I also knew enough that I was going to have to incorporate things that were going on in skateboarding at the time into my part. I realized that if I wasn’t able to hop on a handrail, nobody was going to take any of this other stuff seriously. I was gonna have to go terrify myself a few times. Granted, whenever I ended up pulling off some kind of stunt without killing myself, it felt awesome. But I am not a thrill seeker at all. I know some guys love it but I'm not that dude.

How’d that freeway boardslide ender go down?

The thing with that one is that it’s literally on the expressway. You have to wait for traffic as cars fly past. Its super rough, too.

I remember a buddy of mine brought me there to check it out and I thought that I’d need rails in order to do it. I went out and got some before actually going to try it but I couldn’t do it. Because the inside edge is so sharp, it would burn this little streaks into the rails. Once you got on it again, you’d start falling right into these rail ruts. I think I went back twice but couldn’t get it.

What happened was one day, Joe Brook came into town with a crew of dudes. I ended up going out with them and the whole time I’m thinking to myself, “Do I really want to try this thing again today?”

But I brought it up and actually ended up making it that day. I finally made it because I’d shot through the rails. They just came off! I’d burnt all the way through them and that’s when I realized that I didn’t need them. The rails were what was fucking me up.

The problem now was that I didn’t film it. There wasn’t a filmer there that day and John really wants me to do it again for the video.

I dreaded going back again because it was such a struggle but it was much easier without rails… and I’m still milking that one to this day! (laughs)

photo: brook

What about your short-lived Six Gun project? How was it born and what ultimately happened there?

Well, if you know Lucero at all, he is not a businessman by any means. He’s obviously a creative genius but as far as having any type of business strategy, he’s not your guy.

I started conceptualizing Six Gun on my own out of boredom. I was at home 3 days a week with a newborn on top of just hurting my ankle so I was feeling pretty cooped up.

The Six Gun concept just popped in my head one day and, kinda like the BMC, felt like a good way to satisfy my creative drive to make stuff. Zines, t-shirts, stencils… all just for fun. So I start messing around and John really seemed to like it. He’d always ask about the logo and want to play around with it… putting it in my graphics and stuff.

I remember for one catalog, he ended up asking me to come up with a series of boards using my Xeroxed art pieces as graphics. Of course, I was down but I could tell that maybe he’d already decided on some sort of branch-off thing. He didn’t come out and say this but I could see where it was going. He started beating around the bush about how well things were going. Black Label had just blown up and there was a need to expand. But he was totally cryptic about everything so it was hard to be sure about anything.

It comes time for the next catalog and he wants more pieces for graphics. When I bring them in, he thinks we should also do a logo board that says, “Six Gun”.

“Ok, no problem.”

So I go and make it that night, bringing it in the next day. It’s now one day before the catalog is due.

“Hey, why don’t you call your buddy Chet?  Let’s do Six Gun!”

He gets this look on his face. I love it because it’s the same look he always gets when he’s hyped where his eyes gets real big.

“It’ll just be, like, your thing! It will still be Black Label for now but slowly end up being its own thing!”

“Fucking cool! That’s what I’ve always wanted!”

So I go home and immediately call Chet. Before I even bring anything up, he starts going off on 151.

“Fuck 151, man. I’m so over these motherfuckers! I was just about to call you, man. I know its probably not gonna happen but could I possibly ride for Black Label?”

“Well, that’s actually the reason I’m calling you right now.”

He couldn’t believe it. A total fluke.

So basically John told me that day to go home and call Chet. We had this much money to do shit and here’s our timeline. If Chet was down to do it, I was to come in tomorrow morning with a board graphic for him.

The next day?

Yeah, I had to stay up all night trying to make something for Chet. It was crazy.

But that’s how Six Gun came to be. No agreement of any kind. No plan. Nothing. And other than that initial offering, it took months and months to get the ball rolling past that. I remember hitting up John constantly like, “Hey, we kinda need to figure out something here considering I’m supposed to be doing this now.”

We were finally able to figure some shit out and get to work on it but as Six Gun began to grow, I noticed John trying to reel it back in. It was like he wanted to do it but he also loved having me on Black Label, too. It put me in a weird position and I didn’t have the communication skills to really deal with it.

At some point, I just started to have a different vision. I didn’t really like it being Black Label with a cowboy hat. I started having ideas that didn’t quite go along with how John saw it playing out. Chet was going crazy, too. I don’t even think the dude sleeps. He just lays in bed all night worrying and there’s only so many times you can tell him to chill the fuck out.

I was the one who pulled the plug. It just wasn’t working out. I also started to realize that I was finally in the spot I’d always wanted to be in. I had all of these sponsors and was making money to support my family. People were calling me everyday, wanting stuff. I felt like a true pro skater! Maybe I should just enjoy being in this position for the first time ever instead of dealing with Six Gun.

I regretted shutting it down for a long time but I know it was destined to fail under those circumstances. Fuck it. I’m fine with it being a cool little flash-in-the-pan type of thing.

How did Enjoi enter the picture?

I probably sparked that one.

From living a bit of the good life, starting with Six Gun and then on to trips where it’d often fall on me to act as team manager, I felt like I was working really hard. I was fine with handling things and kinda liked being the team captain, but as Black Label began to slow down, they had to start cutting money. John saw my leaving at the time as being about money but it wasn’t. I just felt like I was involved in so many aspects… but when it came time for paycuts, I got the same percentage cut as all the other riders. I took that to heart. I felt like at the end of the day, despite all the graphics I was doing and the team manager stuff, I was just another rider.

Looking back on it, I was being a sensitive little bitch but it did feel like a big deal at the time. Again, not having good communication skills really came into play.

But overall, I could feel that I was less motivated. I hung out with Enjoi all the time anyway. That’s who I skated with. I even filmed with the Enjoi filmer, not the Black Label filmer, ya know? That was my crew. So, once again, getting a kick out of doing something unexpected, I quit Black Label.

Wasn’t Justin Strubing also in the Enjoi mix with you?

He was. It was between him and I for the spot. I think he was already in the mix and then I hit up Matt Evs, basically fucking everything up for Strubing. Sorry, Justin.

sequence: whiteley

Did you feel like you had as much freedom with Enjoi as you did on Black Label?

I didn’t have as much freedom when it came to graphics but I could still do whatever I wanted with everything else.

The weirdest part for me was feeling a little suffocated at times. San Jose is such a tight community and I was always used to being the lone wolf. Once I got on Enjoi, all of a sudden, I was in the middle of everything that was going on here.

But I imagine that making Bag of Suck easier to film with so many other SJ kids around, right?

No, it was fucking horrible. (laughs)

I think it was actually harder because it was so convenient. So up-close-and-personal. Honestly, the whole situation was great and I’ve never been taken care of better… which made it hard for me! I got paid well. I had insurance. They took care of everything for me but it was almost too much! I think I actually like being mistreated better! It gives me motivation and something to work against! They were too nice!

My problem is that I’ve always been a glass half-empty kinda guy. I’ve always been way too hard on myself. I felt I was already “old” in skateboarding by this point, even though I’d just been able to have my highlight part at age 27 somehow.

After the Label Kills, I felt like I kinda went into a lull, motivation-wise. I was still out there skating hard, I just never felt like I was doing enough. I was putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself because my wife was pregnant again. I was doubting myself.  I should’ve realized that I was struggling with things and stepped back to come up with some different ideas instead of trying to push through it.

photo: whiteley

It sounds like you prefer Label Kills to Bag of Suck

I wouldn’t say that. I like them both equally but for different reasons. I will say that I think Bag of Suck is where my age started coming in to play.

There’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I think it’s especially true with skateboarding: you only remember your best days. Whenever you’re going out to try and recreate those “best” moments, you only remember the good from before. You always seem to forget those previous struggle days where nothing went right. That also means you become all too aware of struggle days you’re currently having and you start to doubt yourself. There was a lot of that with me and Bag of Suck.

With the success of those two parts specifically, I remember a lot of people saying that they were finally starting to “get you”. Why do you think that was?

I just think the timing was right and those parts were delivered in a way that worked. I think a lot of people were bored with what was going on. Like, I loved Zero when it first came out… but it just kept going in that same direction and I think it maybe started to feel a bit stale to people. Then Label Kills comes out and all of a sudden, there’s me doing all types of wallrides and weird shit. People could appreciate it.

I also think you gain more respect within the industry when people are buying your stuff. People start to wonder why Black Label is selling so many boards and they see this video. It’s almost like those sales vouch for doing weird shit.

photo: humphries

Do you think your art also served in this capacity? Maybe further contextualizing your voice?

I do think the art helps. I can’t talk about all skateboarders but when it comes down to it, skating is a point of view. You’re going to love the Gonz anyway but you’re gonna love him more because of his art. It’s all one. You can’t have one without the other.

One of the most memorable ads for me growing up was with Jason Jessee. I don’t even remember what he was doing skate-wise but there was a picture of him leaning against his truck and there’s a catholic candle with an Elvis tapestry. I thought that was so cool. That’s when I realized that I liked skaters who had a bit more. I feel like most guys from that era did. That’s what is interesting. It’s not about what tricks you’re working on. Who cares what you think is “wack” and how cool you are for “getting blunted and shit”. You gotta have something to say!

Enjoi is riding high, it’s San Jose and things are going well for you there. Why go back to Black Label?

Because I’m a fucking idiot! Haven’t you figured this out yet? (laughs)

Wasn’t there a possibility of another solo company, like Six Gun?

No, not really.

I never had any intentions of leaving Enjoi. The problem was Matt having such a bad time with Dwindle. Matt is a good friend of mine and to see him that unhappy made me unhappy. By that point, he’d either quit or threatened to quit multiple times. Matt was a genius with Enjoi and I always felt that if he left, the company was done. It wouldn’t even be worth it to continue without him.

It got to the point where he told us all that he was going to quit for good.  We ended up having a big meeting where all the riders got together and it really seemed like the whole thing was a wrap. My whole thing was that we’d just won Team of the Year, we’d just put out this amazing video and we’re kinda on top right now… fuck it, let’s just quit. How rad would that be? (laughs)

Into the sunset.

Right? I’m a genius, obviously. And totally not afraid to put my family at risk at any time. (laughs)

The weird thing about riding for Enjoi back then is that while the team was always solid and loyal, everyone hated Dwindle… even though they treated us really good. It was a strange dynamic and the exact opposite of that at Black Label. There, we were all for John. We love Black Label and we’re all down for the cause. It’s a total underdog scenario where we’re not really making any money but let’s still go out and crush this demo because we’re proud of who we are.

So yeah, I come out of that meeting thinking Matt was done for sure and Enjoi is finished. It’s all over… or so I thought. I leave to drive down to San Diego by myself for a tradeshow and I had no idea what I’m going to do but I better start figuring it out. So as I’m driving, John calls.

“Kid! What’s up! Let’s go to the bar!”

Fuck it, I’m in no hurry. I head over to Huntington Beach to meet up with John, which is basically like hooking up with an ex-girlfriend or something. But you have to remember: I’m still thinking Enjoi is done. That’s what we decided. What am I going to do? I’ve seriously had people all over the world give me the finger, saying that I ruined their lives by quitting Black Label. And I gotta admit that my name does look good on a Black Label board… plus, I missed being involved with graphics.  

All of this is spinning around in my head while I sit at this bar with John when he turns around to me and says, “Fucking ride for the Label, dude!”

That’s how it happened.  

photo: swift

But what about Elephant? I know you and Mike were friends but did you go into that thinking long-term with his sponsor track record?

I wasn’t thinking long-term at all.

After the economy crashed, I wasn’t making enough money from my sponsors to live so I just said fuck it and quit everything. In my mind, my time in the sponsored skate world was over. I pretty much broke down. I was done trying to fight for my position. The ride lasted longer than I’d expected anyway, it was time for me to move on. I was still down to roll, I just didn’t want the eye on me anymore.

The thing is: you just can’t walk away from skateboarding. All of a sudden, Svitak hits me up about wanting to make me a board for 1031. He’s my friend. If that helps him out, rad. Nothing serious.

But I started seeing what Mike was doing with these Elephant videos he was putting out. Man, it hyped me up! At the time, I was starting to feel pretty blah about what was going on in skateboarding but those Elephant videos really got me excited.

I ended up tweeting something about looking for a job, just kinda joking around. Mike calls me 15 minutes later. I was honest and told him that while I like the idea of making little videos through Elephant, I needed to know that I could do whatever I wanted to do or it wasn’t going to work. He was down.

Unfortunately, Elephant imploded not too long after that. It came down to ownership and butting heads… they sold Elephant to Vision and that was the end. Mike split so I split. They actually tried to have me take it over but that just didn’t sit right.

What’s cool is that regardless of whatever was going on, John would always let me know that Black Label was there if I needed them. He’d never pressure me about anything, just hinting at stuff, like, “You know, third times the charm!”

Just seeing your board on the shelf the other day as part of Black Label again made me feel all fuzzy inside.

Thanks, man.

Going back to Black Label at this point feels kinda like that old athlete returning to his home team to retire. I’m not done, but if I can help John out in the slightest way, that’s the least I can do. I told him that, straight up. I don’t want any money and I don’t expect anything. Just know that I’m down.

He looks at me and goes, “Fuck yeah, let’s do it.”

I love it. So as we wrap this up, have you thought at all about a potential legacy? With you “returning home” after all this, what kind of influence would you like to think you’ve had? 

I don't know, man. I do think about that kinda stuff sometimes but honestly, it’d just be cool not to be forgotten. I don’t really know where I stand but I can tell you that whenever people tell me that I may have inspired them in some way, I enjoy that the most out of this whole thing. It makes this 43-year-old limping man smile. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve somehow been able to give people the vegetarian dish on the menu. I’m sure its somewhat of an ego boost but to be able to stoke out anybody is fucking awesome. Inspiring people not to give up or helping them realize that there are no rules when it comes to skateboarding. I love that.

Special thanks to Marky Whiteley and Jason for taking the time.


DR said...


Anonymous said...

Yes Yes Yes

Austin said...

Love the Kid! Thank you for this!

Paul said...


thesecrettape said...

The Kid helped shape me. I still hunt for Sixgun boards on ebay. Strubing should go to Enjoi now that SC kicked him off.

Once again... great work Chops.

Anonymous said...

Great interview, thanks so much for this.

The Kid is a favorite among favorites for style, aesthetics, and attitude.

Super rad.

DEVOUT said...


Lala Kailina said...

I like to ride my board on Downhill road. That always make me so happy.

Yeah said...

"The vegetarian dish on the menu," best analogy.

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DJ Tonto 101 said...

Chops, I wanted to e-mail you, but I am poor and use the public library computers that do not let me message you because they are so antiquated. I apologize for all the times you would post Brian Anderson and I would type that he was the greatest Homosexual athlete this side of Greg Louganis (kids Google that shit if you don't know). And I was the jack ass that typed Pat Corcoran was the Tyrone Biggums of skating, again kids Google that shit. I am one year sober today and want to make a personal amends, Luv ya bro!!

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