Jim Greco's "Hammers" Interview
Jim Greco is an obsessive. When he’s into something, you’re gonna know about it; like, “Holy-shit!-Did-you-see-Jim-Greco?” know about it. Though many have marveled at his radical transformations from skinny-tie rocker to inked-up thug to something akin to a circa-’78 James Caan, what’s really important about Jim Greco is his myopic commitment to skateboarding. This guy is thinking about skateboards and skateboarding right now. Through a long and storied career, he’s as focused as the first day he started. More than focused, it’s eating him alive. —T-Ed
The words ‘switch,’ ‘roof gap’ and ‘darkslide’ don’t usually go together. Welcome to Greco’s world.
Jeremy Klein: I’ve known you for a very long time. We have seen all sorts of changes in the skateboard world. How do you feel about the industry now?
It’s definitely much different than when I first got involved. Although there’s been many changes along the way, I’ve never really allowed them to bother me. I just try to stay focused on my own projects so it doesn’t really affect me in actuality. I’ve been having a lot of fun lately.
Greco and Klein, still stacking after all these years
Hammers USA was started a year ago. You do it all yourself and all the products are rad and made in the USA. What made you want to do this?
Yeah, I wanted to do something 100 percent made in the USA and silkscreened by hand, just like the way it used to be when I started skateboarding back in ‘89. I wanted to do a small project and do things at my own pace. I wanted to incorporate my own art into the project, too. I did not want a big retail demand that had any predication on the art direction. I did not want something that was easily palatable for mass consumption. I wanted to do something fun that wasn’t based on making tons of money. It’s been really fun so far; taking it slow and having a real cool time.
Have you always been interested in making art?
Yes, I’ve been making art for 30 years in different forms: drawing, some paintings, collages, music. It was one of my favorite subjects in school along with math.
Do you think there will be a cultural shift with kids becoming more interested in smaller, hands-on brands?
Yes, it is already happening.
Print is dead. Greco ollies its coffin
What is it about screen-printed boards that makes them feel less disposable than decks with heat transfers?
It has more depth perception and I feel that causes the art to transcend better on the bottom of the deck. Silkscreening by hand lasts longer through time for people who are planning to save a deck to collect. When you silkscreen fluorescent colors, those colors have a flat appearance to them. You can experiment with mixing all sorts of colors to create other colors using fluro. You can easily use the fountain printing process to create gradient colors where no two decks are alike. You do this by putting different color inks under the screen at one time. There’s a lot of different things you can do with hand silkscreening. The decks smell really nice—smells like you just got a box from the ‘90s and they slide better. Silkscreening decks by hand is the best. It cost tons more, but to me it’s totally worth it.
Backside flip, nontraditional trajectory
Do you ever anticipate having a team for Hammers USA?
That’s quite doubtful, but anything is possible. It’s not a concern of mine currently. The company is more like a little art project rather than a traditional skate company. I do it to make a satisfying product for me to skate and to express myself rather than trying to find the best skater or opinion leaders to sponsor to gain some sort of traction or recognition as a team. I do this simply to make me happy and to do a project 100-percent made in the USA.
Do you still ride for Deathwish?
Yes, I do. I’ve just been putting a lot of focus on Hammers USA, though. I’m passionate about that. It’s exciting doing the graphics all myself, having them hand screened and making it all 100 percent in the USA. Creating Deathwish with Erik and making Baker with Andrew was really fun. I’m very happy to have great partners and we built a nice distribution business that allows me to create what I want and also allows us to plug in new brands that others create.
Nobody puts Jimmy in the corner!
Is Hammers USA distributed through Baker Boys?
Yes, it currently is.
Who are some of your favorite skaters old and new?
Tim Upson, Mat O’Brien, you, Rob Gangemi, Billy Waldman, Jesse Martinez, J Lee, Mike V, PJ Ladd, Guy Mariano, Ron, the Sarge and of course Mark G. Young guys, I have to say I’m pretty impressed with Brandon Westgate and Jeremy Leabres.
What’s Tim Upson up to these days? Do you still keep in touch with him?
Yes, I talk to Tim often over text and I see him every time I go home and visit my family. Tim is family to me. He still skates and lives in Connecticut. Last time I went home me, him and Shark just hung out downtown for a couple hours and went all over the city having a good time.
You ever skate with Coco back in the day?
Yes, in Newburgh, New York ‘94. Well, I more so watched him skate and cruised around during practice with him. He was ripping! He did a super long noseblunt slide on a quarter pipe. He was riding a Judas Priest Kelly Bird Real board; the yellow one. He was nollie flipping the hip all crazy, too. He came close to winning the contest!
Let’s talk about the upcoming Hammers movie. What will it be like?
It will show anxiety and suffering, fun and everything in between. It’ll be something to be either loved or hated. It shows a documented struggle. Where there is a struggle there is a lot of emotional content. I definitely feel it’s interesting. I’ve worked quite hard on it over the last two years every day and I’m really pleased with it. You have a crazy trick for it and I’m really happy about that!
What was one of the scariest thing you did for it?
One of the scariest things was the 270 lipslide from building to building. I found a fence, cut it and we welded some plates on the end and jammed it in between the buildings and bolted it in so it wouldn’t move. The chain link hung down and it was kind of scary to get your wheels caught in it or slip back and roll up the windows, sack, and fall down the hole. I did actually kinda sack once but I was going fast enough and cleared it. Once I got it all set up and got the balls to try it, it wasn’t that difficult and I did it multiple times. It was just a mind-over-matter-type thing. I’m really happy about how the cell phone picture turned out that Joey Sinko shot. I’d always wanted to do the trick across the building gap, and I obsessed on it for a very long while. I had the spot in mind for five years and it took awhile until I found everything to make it happen and make it right.
Anxiety, suffering, 270 lipslides and looming death
You’ve been filming nonstop for this. Will this be your final video part?
I don’t think so, I mean, you suffer so hard during these projects that you always, at some point, claim it’s going to be, but I want to film something for the JK Industries promo and also whatever Supra edits we have coming out. We have a lot of cool stuff planned for Supra for 2016. Been going on really fun trips. Just spent some time in New York with Supra working on an edit with the team.
What was your favorite video part to work on?
I’d have to say the Deathwish video or the Hammers USA movie I’m working on now, but Baker 2G and the first Hook-Ups video were really fun, too.
Describe what you do each day, currently, from morning to night?
I typically wake up at 6am, get coffee, work on the timeline, go skating and then create stuff in the evening either by taking photos, painting or working on the computer. I’m a very boring man. I do not drink. I do not take drugs. I do not go out. I sit home and dwell on projects I’m working on.
How do you feel about social media? Do you like it or do you wish it would just go away?
It doesn’t bother me; it’s just another way to communicate. If I get uninspired by what I see I just stop following it.
Do you ever engage with your fans on social media?
Occasionally, I will.
Triple-overhead plastic, Klein paddles into another sick pick
Favorite movie of all time?
I’d have to go with Mean Streets.
What music are you digging these days? Do you still play?
There are too many to list, really. Giuseppe Di Stefano, Mina, the Bleu soundtrack, Cocteau Twins, Nico, the Tempest Ballet soundtrack, Beethoven, Bach, David Bowie, Iggy Pop’s albums produced by David Bowie, Lou Reed’s Berlin album. Those are a just a very few. Yes, I still play.
Who have consistently been your favorite bands/musicians over the years?
Nico, Mina, Lou Reed, Frank Sinatra, Giuseppe Di Stefano.
Time travel is not impossible
Do you like reggae music?
To be truthful, I do not like it.
Do you think there is any originality left in skateboarding?
Yes, but not too much. What I see is a lot of originality on how big industry is getting skateboarders’ cash.
Are there any skate companies out there that you think are good nowadays?
Yes, JK Industries is rad because it has a lot of the boards I bought when I first started skating and other cool new ones as well—silkscreened, too. I like the Chris Miller Welcome board. That board is such a nostalgic board for me. Mark always has solid graphics for Krooked, too. Hard Times is a good company.
How do you feel about Street League? Would you ever compete in Street League?
No, I just do not have the interest in it. It’s dull to me. I must say Street league is truly nonexistent in my life. I don’t say that in a emotionally-charged way, I just have no interest in it whatsoever and that’s the truth. I do feel it’s a false conveyance of what skateboarding is all about, though. I feel skateboarding is essentially performance art. It’s based on how you move. Also, it’s more about battling your own struggles and it feels like you’re getting off (in a way similar to abusing a drug), pretty much. Street League takes away from that; presenting skateboarding as something to be quantified and compared by a created metric to show a comparable superiority and for that comparison to be displayed to the masses all with the highest purpose being to gain the most advertising dollars for the creators and network owners. Thankfully, I do not have cable to participate in furthering its success by viewing. I haven’t had cable for 15 years. It was fun 20 years ago when we used to watch Up All Night with Gilbert Gottfried at your Mom’s house then we used to go skating all night. That’s when cable was good.
Will you always live in California or will you move back to Connecticut some day?
I will always live in California but I am currently trying to buy property in Connecticut, so I will probably alternate from both locations eventually.
What’s your favorite trick of all time to do?
Three-sixty ollie grinds, when they work out, but they rarely do. When they do they feel crazy! It’s just I slam so hard every time I try it and mess up.
Zipping up a back lip, curb cuts unrivaled
Do you agree that in order to do a proper backside 360 ollie your front foot needs to come off the board?
No, that’s not true. I personally prefer them with the front foot coming off slightly, but there’s no right or wrong way for someone to skateboard or do a trick. I do not like tricks done in a robotic fashion. To me that’s not good style, but that’s just my opinion. I like the way Danny Sargent looks on a skateboard and the way his footage sounds!
What is your current set up like?
I ride in a 8.25” board, typically. I never change my wheels. I’ve been riding the same pair of wheels for two years. They are really small. I don’t know what size my trucks are. I ride Independent trucks and I ride decks for approximately three months at a time. I’ve been riding a lot of Hammers USA decks and JK Industries decks.
Another early-morning obsession, Greco fastplants onto a Hollywood Freeway on ramp. The urge will never die
Mike’s pizza on the East Coast and Pizzanista on the West Coast.
What are your plans for the next five years?
I’m making a book of my art and of all my paintings—not a zine, a hardcover book. Lots of skateboarding, making art, hanging with my friends, some traveling, too. I’m looking to buy more property—to take all my earnings from skateboarding and buy as much property as possible. I do not want to be rich; I just want to live comfortably. Just trying to get to the level of drinking coffee, doing slappies, making art, hanging with my friends, going where I want, when I want and doing what I want without worries and without having to rely on skateboarding at a professional level forever to do so. I feel this is achievable by owning property.
Are you working with a publisher for your art book or are you self-publishing?
No, I am not working with a publisher. I will just find a place that produces books and make a very limited number on nice paper. I’m really happy about this project.
What is skateboarding missing right now?
More print! Waiting for High Speed and the old man to create Angel Dust magazine so I can buy and collect every issue.
Will you ever stop skating?
No, I will never stop skating for the fun of it. I don’t think I would want to do it professionally after the age of 50, though, unless there were exceptional circumstances. I want to skate every day with my crew, though. That urge will never die within me.
Any last thoughts?
No, I just want to thank Soap, Aleks, you, the old man, Thrasher, Joey Sinko, Ben K and my Mom and Dad for making this project possible. I want thank Supra for always endorsing and supporting what I do creatively and with skateboarding and I wanna thank Dennis Martin.
3/17/2016Greco is a skate scholar. He’s known for his street skills but he also has a deep appreciation for transition. He picked four classic parts featuring Todd Congelliere, Mike Vallely, Jesse Martinez and Tom Boyle.
2/22/2016This video checks all the boxes. Solid crew, awesome videography, and killer skating amidst the Concrete Jungle of NYC. Enjoy...
2/18/2016Before the video goes up tomorrow, check out this article from the mag. Ryan Allan shot some great pics.
2/17/2016The boys set up shop in New York to stack footage in civilization’s most exciting city. They did good. Video premieres here on Friday.
2/09/2016A journey through the 11th and 12th year of Jim Greco's sobriety.