chrome ball interview #145: joey pepper

chops and joey pepp sit down for conversation.

Going all the way back to the beginning, how was growing up as a skater in central Maine? Was this a social outcast-type scenario for you or a healthier one? I've read where Welsh say that your skating any type of decent spot required an hour drive, is that true? 

(laughs) I don’t even know if “decent” is the right word for it. More like just about any spot was at least 45 minutes away. 

But yeah, I grew up in Central Maine, right in the middle. Super rural. Nothing around but farms. I grew up on a road that was two or three miles long with a total of three houses on it. Nothing but nothing around there. So I basically grew up skating on that rough paved road in front of my house. 

Whenever I was able to hitch a ride, I’d go 20 or 30 minutes out to skate somebody’s shitty quarterpipe or something, but was about it. Anything even remotely resembling a city was about an hour away.

Were you the only kid out there who skated? Those other two houses on your road, did they skate, possibly? 

(laughs) No, not on my road. No one for miles. I think my closest friend who skated lived 15 minutes away. There always seemed to be about four of us who skated at any given time growing up, and that was about the size of it. We were definitely outcasts, to a degree. It’s actually kinda weird because I feel like I got along with everyone in school, but once we all left for the day, it was a totally different ballgame. 

Just the typical shit that skaters went through back then, which I’m not even sure if kids still go through today. People calling you “skater fag”… it was a lot of “fag”. That word always seemed to be their go-to. Drive-by and scream “Fuck you, fag!” or “Skater fag!” I guess that was the most creative thing they could come up with. 

Getting shit thrown at you out of cars. I will say that the getting things thrown at me was slightly more effective than name-calling. I remember one time, I got a full pizza thrown at me while I was outside skating on my road… which, to this day, only seems to get more and more amazing to me. Because as an adult, realizing that someone had a full pizza and was still willing to throw it out the window at me is incredible.  

(laughs) Ordering a pizza is an entire process, especially back then. They would’ve had to order it and gone to pick it up…

I mean, it was still hot! The pizza was still hot. And they still chose to throw it at me instead. That’s pretty impressive. 

I’ve also heard you had a “crippled mongo push” back in the day and did pressure flips for several years past their 1992 expiration date? Any truth to that? 

No, there’s fucking no truth to that. That had to be Rob who said that, for sure. I know that must’ve come from him. I’ve never pushed mongo and you can tell because I push switch mongo. That’s proof. I can’t push switch for shit. 

But pressure flips? Probably. Yeah, I imagine we were all guilty of doing those well past their prime. Everything in Maine was like that, especially back then. Because stuff just moved so slow. We were probably still doing pressure flips in the late 90s… there might be parts of Maine where kids are just finding out about pressure flips right now. Who knows? But yeah, we were always way behind on everything. By the time any trend finally got to our neck of the woods, it would’ve been well after it was over everywhere else. 

I feel like it took an extra five years for anything to hit Maine. 

What is it about Maine skateboarders being really good at smoking cigarettes? I mean, Welsh and Drehobl are two of the all-time greats. 

(laughs) That might’ve been more of a marketing thing, but I do think Rob and Dan took that one to a whole ‘nother level. And yeah, I used to smoke, but not anymore. Maybe we just had the wrong heroes or something? I’m not sure. 

Generally, I do think that it’s a thing for New England skaters to look up to these older, non-skater figures. Like these Uncle-type of guys. Dudes from the backwoods who smoke and drink nonstop. Guys like that would basically become our heroes by-default somehow. Maybe the smoking thing stems from that? 

So how did sponsorship enter the picture for you? And of all things, Channel One flow? 

Oh, wow! You did dig deep, holy shit. (laughs)

Channel One came through Will Harmon… It’s kinda weird how that one happened. 

A friend and I had gone on this trip where we drove down to New York to meet up with some guys, who I didn’t know, before we all headed down to Atlanta together. The plan was for all of us to go to Atlanta first, and from there, my friend and I were going to drive out to California. 

I was only seventeen at the time, so you know how it is, your mindset is that you’ll basically do anything to get out to California. I feel like that was most of us back then. 

So, my friend and I go down to New York in his car and skate around the city for a couple of days. We meet up with these guys and it’s Ted Newsome, Reda, Will Harmon, Vinny Ponte and a few others. And the whole time, my friend is like, “These are my friends. Let’s meet up with my friends. We’re going with my friends.”

We take off towards Atlanta and we’re following their car, skating some things together along the way. But at some point, it becomes pretty obvious what is really happening here. I still remember having this realization suddenly in the car, like “Wait a minute… We’re not really with these guys, are we? We’re just fucking following these guys around! I’m not even sure if they want us here!” 

We were totally those dudes. Tagging along, like holy shit. Because it was brought up to me like we were all going to be on this trip together… until I finally realized, we were actually not all on a trip together. But we still went with it, for whatever reason. 

So we finally get down to Atlanta and my friend and I are supposed to continue on to California. But at some point, in the middle of the night, my friend pulls the car over to the side of the road somewhere. I remember it was raining, and he tells me that he’s going home. 

“Hey man, I’ve decided that I’m going to go to college. I’ve got to get back home by this date and I’m going to go to school instead.”

“What? You’re telling me this now? I thought we were going to California?”

This all came out of nowhere. He’d never even mentioned college was an option. And here I am… in his car, down in Atlanta. I have $150 in my pocket, an extra skateboard deck and a duffel bag with, like, a sweatshirt and another pair of pants in it. 

So we’re arguing and I basically tell him to fuck off. I have him drop me off at the Greyhound station in Atlanta and I got on a bus to LA by myself. 

You still went? That’s amazing. 

Yeah, I was like, “Fuck it”. 

The problem was that I didn’t actually know anyone in LA, it just happened to be the most direct route to California. So, over the next couple of days during my ride out there, I would call anyone I knew to hopefully find a place to stay. 

Luckily, I was able to get hold of a friend of mine in Santa Cruz. So, once I got to LA, I switched buses for Santa Cruz and stayed up there for a week or so before heading over to San Francisco for a few days. Basically, I just did this big loop around California by myself before taking the bus back home to Maine. 

Long story short, I met Will Harmon on the first part of that trip when we were just tagging along. Will was on Channel One. And by the time I finished my loop in California, I ended up back in Boston with Will and he hooked me up with Channel One. 

Also from that trip, I got my first photo in a magazine. A noseslide pop-over on a metal telephone pole that had fallen down. Ted Newsome shot it.

Sick. And good for you with still making it out to California. I would’ve been too scared and gone home. 

Well, the bus became a big thing for us back then. $59 bucks to go anywhere you wanted in the United States? I feel like that trip was basically proof for my friends and I that it was actually possible to do that. So we started taking the bus cross-country all the time after that. Five, ten times cross-country. It was a painful three days but then you were there for cheap, which was the only way we were able to get out there at the time. 

But dude, I knew nothing back then. Nothing about nothing. And so irresponsible, thinking I knew my shit. The bus was the best learning experience I could’ve possibly had. Being around so many different types of people like that, just watching and learning. You learn a lot when you’re stuck on the bus with people who literally don’t have a dollar to their name.

Was Rhythm your first full sponsor? 

Yeah, that came through the Boston connection. After I got back from California and Will hooked me up with Channel One, I was going down to Boston more. That’s when I started skating with Jerry Fowler a lot, who eventually got me on Rhythm. 

What all was going on at Rhythm by then? Because you were in-and-out pretty quick over there, and it wasn’t too long afterwards that the whole thing was over. 

Yeah, it didn’t last much longer after I got on. 

…And what’s funny is that somebody actually sent me a box of Expedition stuff first, before it turned into my getting Rhythm stuff. That was kinda weird. 

But I was super stoked to be on Rhythm back then. I feel like they were doing some really cool stuff with that last push. A cool little 411 edit and the product was looking good. But for whatever reason, that was the last year of it. I guess it had just ran its course. 

You once said in an interview “Rhythm gave me an ad… more like I gave them an ad.” What did you mean by that? 

Did I say that? 


Maybe I was just feeling salty at the time? I don’t really remember saying that… but I think there is some truth to it. 

I feel most younger skaters reach a point where they finally get tired of how companies treat them. Always making you feel like they’re doing you some favor by supporting you. Because when you first get hooked up by a company, you don’t want to blow it so you’ll do just about anything they ask, for any amount of money. You just want to keep your whole thing going. 

That’s obviously a much younger version of myself talking there. And I know that for a while, I was pretty tired of feeling like I was lesser than the company. That I owed them something. Because in the end, it’s your talents that they want. 

Again, I don’t remember saying that, but it really is the truth. 

Great answer. And that nosegrind backside 180 out down Hubba was no joke, either. Was that you and Ben Colen on another bus trip out to California?

No, that was after our bus days. Actually, that was right after I’d first met Ben in Boston. I remember being at some New Year’s Party late at night and he was telling me that he was gonna be driving cross-country in a few days. 

“I want to go with you!”

I kinda just jumped in the car with him. I didn’t even really know him yet. But we drove down to Florida, out to LA, then San Francisco and back. Another one of those big loops again. Just crashing on couches. 

But I don’t remember that trick taking very long. I don’t think it was a struggle… unlike just about everything else I’ve ever done. (laughs)

I think I was just so excited to actually be at Hubba Hideout after looking at it for so many years in magazines. And, at the time, Hubba was the bar. That was the spot you gauged everything off of. So yeah, I probably had a little extra working for me with it being my first time there. 

How did Aesthetics come about? Did Welsh hook that up?

Yeah, that was definitely through Welsh. 

Pretty funny story, I was at a tradeshow in Long Beach, back when everyone used to go to tradeshows. I was at one of those parties at night and Jeff Taylor happened to be sitting on one side of me with a drunk Rob on the other. 

Sal just happens to walk up to us. And Rob being all drunk and shit, turns to Sal and goes, “Hey, this is Joey. He’s going to ride for Aesthetics.”

Sal looks at me and says, “Okay, cool. Nice to meet you.”

Just like that. I didn’t even know if he was serious or not. But I’m sitting there with a guy I’m currently riding for on one side of me and Sal and Rob on the other… 

“Fuck it, alright.” (laughs)

Sal could’ve just been joking for all I knew, but I totally took it serious. Sorry, Jeff. But Rhythm was just about done by that point anyway. And I wasn’t about to let the chance to ride for Aesthetics go. 

I ended up calling Rob a couple of days later and it really was happening, luckily. I remember having to give them some photos first. That if I gave them photos for an ad, they would hook me up. Something like that, which is kinda funny. 

But yeah, I sent over a sequence for my ad and that was it. I was on the team.

I love Aesthetics and Ryde or Die is easily one of my favorite videos from that decade. What was it like putting together your debut part for that?  

I can’t speak for the other guys but I really wasn’t taking it all that seriously. Because I had never really filmed a serious video part before, I’m not sure if I even knew what that really meant at the time. And also, I didn’t know that we were actually going to make that video until the end of filming. So no, I didn’t take it seriously because I never felt like I was actually working on anything specific. I was just out there filming. 

Most of my footage for Ryde or Die was shot by whoever happened to be around filming that day. Different filmers. Different cameras. It didn’t really matter. It’s not like I was going after certain things there, I just happened to be skating ten hours-a-day, every day. That part is basically just what I was able to accumulate over that year, year-and-a-half of skating. Mostly Boston stuff. 

You just happened to be at that age where you can put together an amazing part like that without really trying? Because you’re skating so well and so much anyway? 

…I don’t know. So much of this is just being lucky, man. Being in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people. That type of thing. 

Part of me has always felt like I’ve been kinda living a lie in all of this. That someday, they’re gonna find out that this is all bullshit and I’m not really that good at skating. Somebody’s gonna call my bluff and they’ll finally be on to me. (laughs)

Imposter syndrome. Did any of the older gods on the team ever give you advice for your part or did they just let you do your thing? 

Nah, there wasn’t much mentoring going on with that crew. It wasn’t that type of vibe.

Aesthetics was pretty honest. And I feel like that’s why it was able to make such an impact, because we were all actually friends. People could pick up on that. The whole thing felt very natural because we were just out there having fun. And I think that’s why it continues to live on and people have such nostalgia for it. It was a small team of friends who really skated together. People can always see through bullshit. Aesthetics was real.

Gotta ask, was Boston going through a heavy bleacher phase at this point? Because there is a lot of bleacher skating going on in that part. (laughs)

(laughs) Yeah, I might’ve been experiencing a certain lack of creativity with spots at that time. Maybe I just didn’t feel like dealing with the struggle of finding something new to skate? I don’t know. But it was way easier to go down to the tennis courts and just drag the bleachers out. And those things were super fun, too. 

But yeah, I look back on all that bleacher footage now and I just think to myself, “Goddamn…”

Not the most interesting spot in the world.

How’d you land on the nollie heel backtail as your ender? A banger, for sure, but why that one specifically? I know that was an ad of yours, too. 

That’s actually the sequence I sent them for my first ad, the one I was just talking about. That’s kinda how I got on. 

I didn’t really have any hand in the editing, so that ender is just whatever they landed on for my part. But I will say that didn’t come easily. And this was back in the day of shooting sequences on film, where you’d have a huge pile of wasted film on the ground as you’re trying a trick. Growing bigger and bigger with every try as your stress levels go through the roof. Because photographers would always rip out the film so nobody could develop it, you’d end up with this big coiled mess of failures lying on the ground to add to your frustration. It was awful. 

Were the Jahmal and Jerry cameos your ideas? 

Yeah, I was skating with those guys a lot back then. Barrett, the filmer and team manager who made the video, he asked for some friends footage and that’s what I sent in. I’ve always liked seeing little cameos in parts because you get a better taste of what someone’s real day-to-day is like. Getting to see their buddies in there is always cool. 

And was “The Passenger” your song choice?

Yeah, I was listening to a lot of Iggy Pop at the time. 

Classic shit. 

Well, I think I’d chosen a couple of other songs prior to Iggy that people weren't really into, so I’m glad that one worked out.

Like what? 

I think I tried to use some Ramsey Lewis jazz for it originally, I just couldn’t find the song I wanted. This was back during the Limewire days, so there was no way of finding a decent copy of it anywhere. Either the quality wasn’t there or we couldn’t get the rights.

What’s your personal favorite Aesthetics graphics? And did you keep any of those from back then? 

There were so many good ones, man. And yeah, I have a few. But most of my favorites were actually from before I got on the team. 

The arcade series has always been one of my favorites, with the all black. Those were sick. I liked the race car ones. And the “Animals With Attitude” series was pretty hilarious. I think those were Donny Miller graphics… And the “Baby Mommas” series, too. Those were definitely Donny Miller’s. Super sick. 

I have to imagine you having some pretty incredible experiences on tour with that crew. Like, were you there when Clyde fell off the bridge? 

Well, that one is definitely not a favorite memory… but yes, I was there. 

I think that was my first time out of the country, and it was a long one, too. Like, a 5-week trip or something like that. There are all kinds of stories from that one. 

The only thing that’s kinda funny about Clyde falling off the bridge is that it was the second time he split his head open on that trip. He’d already hit his head really bad at one of the first contest we’d gone to. Because that’s why we were all over there, following that little contest series around. Clyde split his head open at probably the first contest we went to, because I know there’s footage of him skating around with a giant bandage around his head. He was still joking around about it, though. Just being Clyde with this big thing on his head. It really wasn’t that serious, until he fell off that bridge overpass a week or so later. That one was crazy. 

But yeah, we were in Prague. Rob and Clyde were walking back from a contest a few blocks away at night. There was this sketchy overpass thing with no guardrail. They didn’t see the drop and fell, like, 20 feet to the road below. Together. Totally sketchy situation. They’re both lucky the fall didn’t kill them and it’s a miracle they didn’t get run over by a car down below. I guess Rob landed on Clyde… Clyde definitely got the worst of it. The whole situation was pretty traumatic. Because this was also around the same time that we’d all just found out about Keenan’s passing. It was within that day or two that people were finding out over there. 

Rob truly thought that Clyde was dead. I remember Rob coming back to the hotel and telling people what had just happened. Obviously, he was pretty hysterical. Telling people that Clyde might be dead… it’s so crazy to look back on now, man. So fucking heavy. Because Clyde was missing. Nobody knew what was going on or where he even was. This ambulance had just taken him off somewhere. 

So, I ended up taking a taxi all over Prague in the middle of the night. In the rain, for hours. Trying to find him. Hoping that he’s okay, but afraid that he’s dead. And I went to every hospital I could find in Prague, looking for him. It wasn’t until after I’d gone to all of these other hospitals that I finally found him. He was at one of the last hospitals that I’d even heard about, which felt like a total longshot. Luckily, he was okay…

Yeah, that would not be a favorite tour story. 

(laughs) There were some funny ones from that trip, too. Just being over in Europe with your friends at that age. Drinking. Going to casinos. We didn’t have a care in the world. 

Give us a funny one to even that out a little bit. 

I mean, the Clyde one is just gnarly and heavy. But it’s weird because it led to some other heavy shit on that trip which was actually kind of fun, too. Like, Rob and I ended up sticking around longer on that trip than expected because Clyde couldn’t come home yet. He was still in the hospital with head injuries. He wasn’t about to get on a plane and fly home yet. I actually think he was in a coma for a few days.  

Rob and I are just wandering around that entire time. Doing whatever. And, of course, we spent all our money and had nothing left. So, once it finally came time for us to go home, I still remember Rob and I going to the airport and trying to buy plane tickets with all these different types of currencies and change and shit. Just whatever we had left in our bags from all of these different countries we’d gone to. Whatever we could find. Being total Americans, dumping all of this shit on the counter. Just trying to get home. Totally being those dudes. Pretty funny. 

I’ve always been a little cloudy on this, but how did the entire Aesthetics squad end up on Zoo York? 

I’m not 100% clear on that either, to be honest. I feel like it basically came down to the fact that Sal was our guy. Sal was our friend, like a father-figure or uncle-type to us all. And he always took care of us. 

For a while leading up to the whole Zoo thing, there was a lot of stress about whether Aesthetics was actually going to be able to continue. Because there were a lot of financial issues behind the scenes and disagreements between the owners. They were trying to make it work, but it was hard. 

That had been going on for a while, until one day, we all got a call that Sal was leaving to go to Zoo York… which was a complete surprise. Because in our minds, Sal was Aesthetics. They were one and the same. A lot of us were on Elwood, too, and staying on both those companies without Sal being involved didn’t make sense. He was those brands. 

But Sal was great about it. He told us all, “Hey, I’m going to Zoo York. You don’t have to come with me but if you want to, there’s a job for you. I will take every single one of you with me.”

“Fuck it, let’s go!”

We weren’t making any money at Aesthetics anyway. We just wanted to skate and be wherever Sal was. So, I guess we’ll give Zoo York a shot. 

It was cool that we all got to stay together. And it was great being able to team up with Zered and Harold, basically doing what we’d been doing but with more friends… It was a good paycheck for a couple years, too, which was a nice change considering we really weren’t making anything at Aesthetics. So, at least, there was that. 

I just never felt good about skating for Zoo York. It never felt natural to me, like I was supposed to be there. 

But Zoo was big money at the time, right? 

I think so, but it’s not like I was ever making a ton of money there. None of us ever really knew what all was happening on the inside, but we didn’t care. We were skaters, man. We just wanted to skate and not even think about all the bullshit. 

Was it good to be on a company with such heavy East Coast roots? Or was it so corporate by that point, it didn’t even matter?

Nah, it never felt like a traditional skate company at all to me, East Coast or wherever. It felt pretty corporate by the time I got on. And it felt corny a lot of the time, too. 

The actual skateboarding elements of it — the skating and the filming, that was all stuff I took pride in. But having to represent the company, even just wearing their shirts, that never felt good to me. 

They were starting to go down that mall-friendlier road with Ashton Kutcher and Pharrell by then.

Yeah, they were starting to do all that stuff… which, looking back, it’s not strange for a company that big to be doing stuff like that. It just didn’t feel good to us. It felt totally weird for a company to try meshing skateboarding with whatever that is. Those weird little trends. And it never felt like it was going to last, either. 

So strange to think about what that company became. But on a brighter note, give us your best Harold Hunter story. 

My favorite Harold memory is probably the first time I met him. And I feel like a lot of people would say the same thing. 

The first time that I ever went to New York, I was pushing around and just happened to run into him on the street. I didn’t even know Harold at all back then, but he just started talking to me and we ended up spending the whole day together, skating around New York. It was awesome. The next day, I met up with him and we do the same thing all over again. Skating from Battery Park all the way up to Midtown and back. Hanging out at Supreme and meeting people there... 

My first time in New York City, I basically spent the entire weekend with Harold. And I’d never even met him before in my life. I was only 16 or 17 years old, but he immediately treated me like a close friend. And I feel like he did that same thing with a lot of people. 

That’s incredible. Was he “known” by this point? Like, with Underworld Element? 

I think he was Zoo York by that point. But yeah, I knew who he was. And to have this whole New York experience through the eyes of Harold, after randomly meeting him on my first time there? No cameras. Nobody else. It was so rad and something that I always look back on with a greater appreciation as I get older. 

One of your highlights at Zoo had to be that backside ollie over the downtown LA carwash gap. Up a curb and landing four wheels on the bank, that’s not easy. I know Huf battled going frontside there, how was backside for you? 

(laughs) Yeah, that whole thing started as drunk talk. I’m pretty sure I was at the bar with Ben, claiming kickflip. And this was before I’d even tried to ollie it. 

But when I finally go there, I quickly realize how hard that thing is to skate. Turns out that just an ollie across that thing was a battle. I actually had to go back a couple of times to get that. It was not easy. 

Did you even try the kickflip?

(laughs) Depends on what you mean by “try”. Technically, I guess I did “try” one… sorta. 

It probably didn’t look like it to anybody else, but in my mind, I definitely chucked my board over it once just to be sure that there was no way in hell that was happening. 

And then I spent the next couple of days trying to ollie it instead. 

I think you’re the first person to actually own up to drunk claims in one of these interviews. 

There’s been a lot of those over the years, man. I can’t deny it. 

Describe your outlook towards photos and video. Is it something you’ve always enjoyed or only when you have to? 

Oh, I totally enjoy it. 100%. To this day, I still drive around and look for spots. Searching for stuff that would make for a cool photo. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of it. 

There have been days when I wasn’t so into it, like on a trip or something. There’s always that feeling of having to get “content” or some shit. That’s a little different. But the drive to find interesting spots and push myself with a good trick to make something cool, that’s always been there. I’ve always loved the creativity involved with filming and photos. 

But what’s your process like with tricks? Are you one for camping out? I’m asking this because you don’t ever seem to have footage in sweaty gear! You’re always looking crispy clean where even Rob will have a shirtless clip every now and then, sweating it out. What’s going on, man? Are you changing shirts or something?

(laughs) No, dude. I am not changing shirts. And I’m not the most consistent guy in the world, either. This shit never seems to come easy. Any footage I’m stoked on has always come pretty hard for me. 

I’ll camp out, for sure. Because I’m a glutton for punishment. I have a hard time giving up. I hate that feeling of going home empty-handed because as soon as you get home, all you can think about is how you know you can do it and how quickly can you get back there to try it some more. I can’t handle that shit. 

So yeah, I’ll generally try until it’s there and make whoever is filming or shooting photos suffer along with me. I guess I’ve just gotten lucky in how I have been presented over the years with the shirts. 

Special effects. But I feel like you’ve also been one to give away lots of clips to Friends sections, versus stockpiling for your own parts. Why is that? Like your Static 2 stuff in Igei’s part is insane. People aren’t typically so generous with switch front big spinning a street gap and varial heels down double-sets, especially in 2004. 

I know what you’re saying but things were also a lot different back then. There obviously wasn’t Instagram, but more than that, it was a time when no one would ever be self-promoting or putting out their own video parts. So, if the company you skated for wasn’t working on a video, there really wasn’t anywhere for your footage to go. At least, that’s how it felt to me. 

After Ryde or Die, Aesthetics wasn’t going to be putting anything else out, and Zoo York wasn’t working on a full-length video, either. So I generally didn’t have anything to work on back then, but I was still skating and filming a lot. I’ve never liked sitting on footage anyway, so if anybody asked about clips for something they were working on, I’d send them over a few. 

“Yeah, sure. Take it. I don’t care.”

One clip that gets talked about is your ollieing over the barrier lengthwise off the Pine Street Bump. For the WE 3 Friends section no less. Do you remember that day?

Oh, really? People talk about that? That’s cool. (laughs)

No, that just kinda happened one day. That’s a fun spot and was just an idea I came up with while skating it one day. 

The thing with Pine Street is that there was always a rumor of Sheffey having done something on the windowsill. Because there’s a windowsill that is, like, shoulder-high and way out there. Like, ten-feet out. I honestly don’t think anyone could possibly even touch it, but the rumor was always that Sheffey noseslid it. I remember thinking about that every time I skated there.

I’m pretty sure somebody brought that up again that day. And after a while, we just started going as fast as possible to see how far we could ollie off that bump. There just happened to be a barrier around so we set it up. Just a fun little something to do. 

I feel like your Friend clips reached their plateau with your Get Familiar part. I always heard that you over-indexed on sending Chris Hall clips and wound up with a full part? Is that really how it went down? 

Well, Chris Hall had gotten a hold of me whenever he first started filming for the video. But at the time, I was hurt. I’d just had ankle surgery. So, it was one of those things.

“I don’t know, man. I haven’t been skating very much. My ankle is hurting. I don’t want to commit to something that I’m not sure I can do. I just don’t think I can swing it.”

So, a year or two later, towards the end of his filming for the video, I hit him up on my own. 

“Hey, I have a couple of clips for you. If there’s room in the video, I’d be stoked to still be in there. Maybe you got a montage or something?”

I sent him two clips or so. But what I didn’t know was, he had also been in contact with some other guys, too… kinda going around me and talking to people I’d been filming with. And I don’t know if I’d just forgotten about that stuff or what, but he was able to get more footage. It was all pretty random stuff, but I didn’t even know he was doing that at the time. 

So you just show up at the premiere and suddenly you have a full part?  

Yeah, I had no idea! All I knew is that I’d sent him two or three clips. I got to the premiere and was like, “What!?!” It was pretty crazy. 

Did you like how it turned out?  

I did, actually. I liked the whole video. I thought it was cool. He did a good job. 

I love that song. 

Oh yeah? I thought the song was a little weird. (laughs)

Honestly, I haven’t seen that part since around the time it was released. Maybe I’ll have to give it another try. 

But wasn’t there some getting rid of your Zoo footage with that part as well? 

Yeah, there might’ve been some of that, because Zoo did end around that time. A few of those things were probably being saved for Zoo. I’m sure a lot of that stuff had been sent into RB and he was just hanging onto it. But with me no longer on Zoo and Chris hitting him up for footage, it just kinda worked out that way. But it was definitely surprising for all that to be happening without me knowing about it. 

What led you to abandon Zoo and go back to your Rhythm/Expedition roots?

I didn’t abandon Zoo, they didn’t renew my contract. 

Oh, wow, I didn’t know that. That’s pretty shocking, actually. 

Yeah, it was a total surprise. They just called me up one day and told me that they weren’t going to be renewing my contract going forward. And that was it. 

I had no idea things were about to go down like that, and there were some definitely some hard feelings for a while, but it was probably a blessing that happened. Looking back on it, Zoo was not something that I wanted to be associated with over a long period of time. And it’s not like I was super loyal to them. I never had any pride in riding for Zoo York, but I don’t know if I would’ve left them on my own at that point, either. 

How did Expedition come about? 

Expedition was pretty random, actually… I remember it being through MySpace messages. Chany sent me a MySpace message. 

(laughs) That’s amazing! 

Yeah, I got a message from Chany on MySpace one day, like, “What’s up?” (laughs)

It just went from there. I remember telling him that I was interested but that he should try talking to Rob as well. Turns out that he’d already hit up Rob at the same time and Rob said the same thing about me. So yeah, it worked out. 

Rob and I liked the idea of being on the same team together, like a power-in-numbers type of thing. 

But not only were you and Rob teammates, you guys lived together for a long time, too. How was that?

Rob’s an interesting one because he’s always been an older brother-figure to me… but he can also be kind of a younger brother to me as well, if that makes since. And we have a special type of relationship where we can just be ruthless with each other, especially back then. Obviously, there’s a mutual respect there, but just constant bickering. Fucking with each other non-stop. 

This was during the Zoo York days, too, so we were making more money than we’d ever made before. Not that it was a lot of money, but we were definitely enjoying some financial freedom back then. So yeah, we spent a lot of time golfing and drinking. Drinking and golfing. And skating, too. 

But living with Rob was good, man. It’s always a rollercoaster living with someone you know that well. I’m not going to get into any specific stories, but we never really got into it too bad. We were always respectful of each other, in some manner. 

One of my favorite parts of yours that I feel doesn’t get enough shine, Expedition Madness really highlights your evolving trick selection. Clips like that kickflip lipslide over the hydrant and the backlip transfer in China… were those tricks you had thought about beforehand or did they just come about at the spot that day?  

No, none of that stuff was planned, that all just kinda happened on the fly… just by being there. I was skating a lot at that time and just having fun. Not that I’m not always having fun skating, but I was feeling really good on my board during those couple of years specifically. Really confident. I would imagine that probably making a difference somehow. 

It’s not like I was trying to do something different, more like just letting myself have a little more fun with things. Like the kickflip lipslide, that was just an idea that popped in my head while skating there one day. I feel like I might’ve almost done it by accident one time while trying something else and decided to give it a try for real. 

The backlip transfer in China was a bit of a battle, but that spot is so much fun. It was only one day but we were definitely there for a while. It can be like that when you know you can’t come back. And I had flatspots afterwards, for sure. It definitely wasn’t a “first go” type of thing. 

And that super long noseblunt through fence? Where you throw your board at the end? Had you ever been to that spot before?

Yeah, that’s in Daly City. 

The funny thing about that one… you know how I throw my board there? It landed somewhere out in the woods behind the spot. Well, I forgot that I was supposed to fly out to Thailand on a trip the very next day. But it doesn’t even hit me until later on that night. 

“Fuck! I threw my fucking board into the woods!”

Because I really liked those trucks. I didn’t want to go on a trip with new trucks. 

So, I actually went back to that spot in the middle of the night to find my board. Walking around those woods in the dark, until I finally find it. The next morning, I fly out to Thailand and two days later, I’m completely broke out with poison oak all over my body. 

I guess everybody who has ever been to that spot knows that there’s poison oak all over those woods back there… but not me. I didn’t know. So yeah, there I was, walking around in a bunch of poison oak in the middle of the night, looking for my board. It was so gnarly. (laughs) 

So good. What about those two Flushing clips in there? The lipslide-to-noseblunt slide across the grate couldn’t have been easy, and even harder to make look good. And there’s that sick kickflip backlip in there as well. 

Just random shit. I was living in Brooklyn at the time so I was skating Flushing a lot. Ideas just kinda pop into your head. The lipslide to noseblunt slide thing is a random one. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually done that trick on anything else. Definitely not one that I typically do. I just thought it could look cool. 

I remember really wanting to do that backside over the grate. Backlip to back noseblunt? I tried that one for a while and almost got it. I landed on it but could never roll away. 

Both of those clips were in the middle of winter. I’d just call up Sean Cronan, who I was filming with a lot at the time. He was great because I could just call him and he’d drive down from Connecticut, skate for an hour, and we’d get something almost every time. We had a pretty good batting average. 

I gotta ask, with so many of these clips being spontaneous and then finding their way into parts where they’re forever, is there anything that might’ve felt like a good idea at the time but now you’re not so sure about? 

What are you getting at, Eric? Should I be? (laughs)

(laughs) No, no, no… I was afraid you were gonna take it that way!

(laughs) What are you getting at, man? 

No way! But I also know how everyone is their own worst critic. 

I don’t think so. Maybe if I’d come out with video parts from when I was super young, I might feel that way about some stuff. 

Back in your pressure flip years?

Yeah, during my crippled mongo push days. I’d be rethinking those.

… that’s fucked up, by the way. Rob’s gonna hear about that. (laughs)

But no, not really. It is what it is, you know. I never really feel guilty about what I was wearing or what I was doing. Because whatever I was doing at the time was how I felt. 

Do you typically pick the music in your parts? What makes a good Joey Pepper soundtrack? 

It’s usually just stuff that I’ve been listening to a lot at the time. Generally, I’ve never been super into hip-hop for video parts. There are a lot of other people whose skating looks good to it, but I’ve always preferred other genres of music for my parts. 

How’d that Mehring “Going Out West” song come about for your X Games part in 2012? 

I might regret skating to that one, actually. That would be a regret. I saw that part recently and that song was just… oh my god. Sorry, Jon. (laughs)

Because it was for X Games, they had sent me a bunch of usable songs from their library and, of course, they were all awful. I couldn’t use any of that stuff. 

I was hanging out with Jonathon a bunch back then, so I just hit him up.

“Dude, can you sing me a song me for the part?”

That’s what he came up with and we sent it in.

But what inspired that part anyway? It was super cool to see, especially you not really being a contest guy. 

This was back when they’d just started doing that contest and I thought it was a cool idea. To me, that was something completely unheard of, mixing street skating with video stuff in a contest format? And again, I enjoy filming and trying different stuff. Trying to get creative. It felt like a good challenge and a fun time to create something cool like that. 

I was filming a lot with Richard Quintero at the time anyway, we just gave it a shot. That was a good one. 

What about that ollie ender to cellar door? How’d that even happen? That’s not even a spot. 

That was just down the street from my woodshop in Bushwick. 

Honestly, many of my favorite clips that I’ve gotten over the years are things that I’d been walking by or driving past for years. Things that are close to wherever I may be living at the time. The stuff you always see and think to yourself could be cool. 

But a lot of those spots have ended up being real battles. Taking a lot of energy. Whether I have to fix it up a little in order to make it work or whatever. And it’s never an immediate thing, either. It will usually take me a while to find a day where I finally go there and try it… even though it’s just down the street. 

So, the cellar door wasn’t exactly spur of the moment, as I’d been looking at it forever. But it just so happened to be this one day where I was out skating with Stefan and Mehring. Suddenly, I wanted to try it. 

“Hey, I want to get this thing.”

But yeah, my favorite things are typically those spots hiding in plain sight.  

Like your wallie Gone Fishin' ender over that street gap? Wasn’t that another local gem?  

Yeah, that’s another Brooklyn spot. I’d been riding my bike past that spot for years. Same thing. 

Out of all your parts, is there one that you look at as a particular favorite for you? 

That Real Street part is probably my favorite, because I feel like I was having the most fun on that one. Feeling the most creative at the time. I was skating in New York, which is always fun. It’s hard, but anytime you get a clip in New York, it always looks cool. If you can get it, it’s almost like cheating in a way. 

Not too long after that, you actually quit Kayo via an Instagram. I feel like that was the first sign of that organization about to go through a full meltdown. Had you been unhappy there for a while? And why quit via Instagram? 

That was basically out of frustration. 

I just couldn’t get anybody on the phone. I’d been trying to get a hold of people, trying to get answers, but I felt like I was getting brushed off. Part of me felt like I was being lied to, as well. Not getting the whole truth on a lot of things. And there was a long period of not feeling like I was valued there. 

Just all types of feelings, probably made worse by the fact that I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to actually talk it out with. To have a man-to-man conversation. 

So after a while, I just said, “Fuck it”. I want this to be done and over with so I can move on. I’m gonna quit, but I want people to know why. 

Did you have a backup plan? 

No, there was no backup plan at all with that one. I hadn’t really communicated to anyone about any of it. 

Honestly, I was just out skating that day with friends. They were actually in the background, filming something. But I was having a day where I couldn’t focus. All that shit was on my mind and kinda fucking me up. I was sick of thinking about it so I went over to a corner and blasted off a little Instagram vent. (laughs)

It’s totally weird to think about, that I quit through Instagram. Like, why did I do that? Just doing anything via Instagram is weird. But at the same time, I don’t regret it. It was something that I needed to get off my chest. 

Did you go back and tell your friends that you just quit your board sponsor?

(laughs) No, I didn’t. But it only took about 30 seconds for them to check their phones and find out, because that’s what everybody does. 

You seem to be pretty picky about board sponsors. How’d Politic win you over? 

I don’t think of myself as being “picky” about board sponsors. I just think that whoever you associate yourself with is super important. 

As for Politic, I had a conversation with Damon and I just really liked his vibe. I like what he’s trying to do with the company. I’m a fan of all the riders on the team and I thought the graphics were cool. 

This was also as we were coming into this period where board sponsors can’t really pay you a lot, but I feel like the guys who run these smaller companies have a genuine love for skating. It’s not a business-type of thing for these people. For someone to be running a company like Politic, it’s obviously more of a passion project. It’s something that he really wants to be doing and I appreciate that. 

I just thought it was cool. It’s not like I had a bunch of other offers to choose from, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t have chosen Politic anyway. 

I’ve never really been into that whole industry thing. I’ve never been one to shop around or whatever. I don’t really talk about skating with that many people. That’s just the way I roll, I guess. 

I’m loving these clips of you with Nikhil and Silas in your new Portland locale. How often do you get out with those guys? Always cool to see.

I’ve known Nikhil for a long time. He’s originally from New Hampshire, so we go back to when I was 16 or 17 years old. And I met Silas shortly after moving here. But yeah, I skate with those guys all the time, and talk to them about every single day. They’re like family. And always good to go out and roll around with. 

I remember seeing some clips a few months back where you guys were skating some weird school with a random sheet of plywood? I think you ollied a handrail onto this crappy plywood laid out on a grass gap… Super sick. 

Yeah, that was a fun day. 

It was during those early days of COVID lockdown and we didn’t want to go to any of the other spots where people might be at. So we found this random school that absolutely no one skates and tried to make the most of it. Setting up shit, just seeing what all we could think of with whatever was lying around. 

I lived in Portland 6 years and had never seen that place before. 

Yeah, it’s not even really a place.

50-50 on a rail, ollie to the other side of the steps, boardslide on curb… how did you land on even trying that? 

That’s another one of those things that I’d been driving past forever and thought it would be cool. New city, same shit, I guess. That’s on one of my daily routes by my house so I had to look at it almost every day until I finally tried it. 

I must’ve tried that thing a thousand times. Probably broke twenty boards, too. 

I love that these neighborhood spots are a recurring theme in this. 

(laughs) Maybe that just means I’m lazy? That I’m only skating stuff that happens to be along the way. Like, I’m on my way to the hardware store anyway, I guess I’ll skate this thing that’s barely even a spot. Hopefully, I don’t sound like that. 

(laughs) As we wrap this up, with your career now spanning over 20 years, is there anything you would’ve done differently? I feel like you’ve always been seen as the “underground” guy, to an extent. 

I’ve heard that before, but I don’t necessarily agree with it. It’s not that I’m “underground”, I just live in my own world. Maybe I just don’t pay attention to skateboarding like that? That I’m not as on top of my skate knowledge as I should be? I don’t know. It’s hard for me to compare myself to others as I just see things from my own perspective and the people I skate with.  

“Underrated” is another one I’ve heard used a lot to describe me. I don’t agree with that one at all. 

Why not? 

Because I have gotten out of skating exactly as much as I’ve put into it. Skating doesn’t owe me anything and I don’t feel like I owe it anything, either. 

Whenever I hear the term “underrated”, I always wonder what they mean by that. Who’s rating me low? I guess I haven’t checked my ratings lately but what the fuck is that supposed to mean? Where are these “ratings” anyway? (laughs)

Is there anything that I wish I would’ve done differently? Yeah, there were a few periods where I probably could’ve taken skateboarding a little more seriously. But it’s hard to say that I’d want to go back and change anything. I don’t think that I’d want to change my trajectory at all.

Maybe taking more of an interest in the industry? Because I’ve never really cared about the industry as whole or even being a part of it, really. Maybe if I paid better attention and possibly built more relationships, that could’ve changed my path a little, but who knows. It might’ve changed things a little bit as I’ve gotten older, but honestly, I have no regrets whatsoever. 

Skateboarding is like anything else in life — you get out of it just as much as you put into it. It’s really that simple.

Thanks to Joey for taking the time. 

And Special Thanks to Nikhil for Sending Over This Rare Gem. 


chops said...

Big thanks to Nikhil for sending over this sick little edit from a few years back. Never seen this before. Super good.

Lindsay Lohan:

Tomas said...

Cool Interview Eric and Joey!

Got to briefly meet Joey and a friend of his from Boston at a sizeable ledge on the backside of Hollywood High nearly two decades. He was doing speedy b/s tailslides, his friend was trying switch crooks, my friend did a kickflip front noseslide, and I pulled a switch front noseslide. He was kind enough to grab a stack of "used" Aesthetics boards and kick them down to us for $5 each.

Would have been cool to hear him talk about his time in SF w/o a board sponsor while Welsh was on SC, riding for HUF's and Levi's programs, and his current trajectory with skateboarding and woodworking.

Thanks again for the quality content!

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Joey in my homespot doin trix that never went on a video, maybe an nbd for 2004: he was warming up on the ledge trying nollie 270 to ss back tail, but he used to locked all the time in ss bs smith. The filmer even pulled out his camera from his bag, same for effortles first try line: fs flip up 3 and huge 3flip down 3 with arms down antwan dixon style. After that l brought him in a wheelchair ramp to bar around the corner with zig zag bouncy wobly metal surface almost impossible to ride on but he did ollie shifty over first try which you can see on the get familiar's part (was painted red ). Everything happened in the morning after he woke up from bed.

Anonymous said...

Good guy, great interview - thanks to you both!

Bo Golden said...

really surprised there was absolutely no talk about his HUF shoe. Always been a fan of this guy though.

chops said...

@unknown. I feel like the shoe was covered pretty well here: https://youtu.be/2KWXsL8eifc

Bo Golden said...

I don’t ever remember seeing that! Thanks!

Watson said...

Fun little tidbit for ya: When I interviewed Joey for YWS I also brought up the Iggy Pop song because I thought it was one of the best picks ever. He told me he originally wanted to use Life Of Leisure by Joe Walsh but Jerry Fowler ended up using it for the FKD video or something. Both great song choices though.

Dustin Umberger said...

Joey and Nikhil were skating the Phil Shao park in Redwood City randomly one day and I chatted with them. Really cool dudes, I tried not to fan out. Nikhil told me where to get off the BART to get to the Metreon in SF