The Follow Up: Richie Jackson Interview
Photo: Elmer Barrero
By now I'm sure you've seen Richie Jackson's most-recent video part on the Thrasher site. Immediately after I watched it I thought to myself, "I gotta talk to this dude." Here's my take: It's mind-numbing how many video parts come out on a weekly basis, so when I see something that makes me think anything beyond, "Well, that was good," I'm impressed. Love it, loathe it, respect or disrespect it, everybody has an opinion on Mr. Jackson's skating and/or persona. Having never met the dude, I was genuinely curious as to what makes him tick. I hope you enjoy reading the following conversation as much as I enjoyed having it. —Michael Sieben
So, Richie, how long did it take you to film this video part?
A little over two years, which is the amount of time I used to put into video parts. I think that's a good length of time to do everything you want to do.
As far as this part is concerned, what are you most proud of?
Strangely enough, the 720 backside Natas boneless was the most difficult. I think I went back four times to get it. It was just insanely hard for reasons I did not foresee.
Most 720s involve vert, not wall jams to backside Natas bonelesses. Richie knows you gotta spin it to win it
Is that uncommon? When you visualize a trick do you normally kind of have it figured out before you try it?
Well, that's the gamble. That's what I like about it. You have an idea in your head and when you get there it's completely fucked. But actually, probably the thing I'm most happy with in my part is the ender. That was one of those rare times where the vision that you have completely aligns with what you're seeing in the viewfinder once you get it. That spot is between three freeways and I was struggling to think of a way to film it. I've never filmed anything with a drone before because I'm not into that unless the trick necessitates it. Looking at this spiral I was, like, "The only way we can do this is with a drone." With all the wind from the traffic I wasn't sure that it was possible. It seemed that all it would take was one big truck going by to fuck it all up. But my pal Andy Laputka filmed that and did a fantastic job. And when I saw what he had captured, I went, "Well, that's it. That's what was in my head," which is really nice because that never happens. When you have a vision in your head, you're looking at it—
And then you see the actual footage and it's totally different.
It's never how you picture it. But this was 99-percent close to what I was envisioning, which was awesome.
When you start working on a project like this, how do you jump off? Are there tricks in your mind you want to do? Do you have a list of stuff or do you just go skate and see what happens?
Probably a little bit of all of those. The tricks kinda have a will of their own; you just have to be there to make them exist. Like, if an idea is really not going away then I take that as an indication that I probably should go and do it. I have tricks that I thought of ten years ago that are still sitting on a list that I was just able to make real.
Do people ever send you photos of spots that they think you could do tricks at? Like, "Hey, here's a Richie Jackson spot."
It happens all the time. People might DM me something and it's really, really good and I think that's awesome. We are the skate super consciousness now. We can just fire these ideas around inside the one gigantic mega structure. It's awesome.
Do you personally spend a lot of time driving around looking for spots?
Yeah. It's funny: I mostly think of a concept and then look for the spot where I can make it happen. Other people are totally different. William Spencer definitely conceives mostly in the spontaneous realm. He'll go somewhere and go, "Oh, look at this; look at that," and start putting the pieces together, which is the complete opposite of what I do. I think of something and then find somewhere conducive to that idea. So yeah, I search a lot for spots.
So the tricks always come before the location.
Lately it's been like that. But that's not to say I haven't done some spontaneous stuff as well. But that's the way it's been going lately: conception first, spot find later and then completion third.
It's a fallacy that hippies don't use soap. Backside 360 shoe slide
Did the words "Soap shoes" ever enter your mind while filming this part?
I don't think a day goes by that the words "Soap shoes" aren't running through my head.
Good answer. So moving from that question, I've met tons of skate purists that don't believe in waxing a spot. They just think you should push faster. It looks like many of the tricks in your part would not have been possible without wax. What do you…
That's actually completely untrue.
So you could have filmed this entire part without wax?
I don't alter spots in any way because I think that goes against the true essence of skateboarding: I won't skate a picnic table unless it's bolted down, I won't move any obstacle so I can have my way with it—that's fundamentally wrong. You cannot alter your environment in any way shape or form, and if you do you're a huge kook.
So all of these spots—say, El Toro: the individual steps were already waxed before you shoe slid down them?
I learned that trick at my house growing up down these carpeted stairs. I'd slide down the stairs on my feet wearing socks. That's just something I've always done. It wasn't a new idea, per se.
But were the individual stairs already waxed so you could slide down them?
I guess we'll never know.
Because from a spectator's point of view it looks like there's quite a bit of wax on them.
It's kinda like when a comedian has to explain a joke and it kills it, you know what I mean?
Shoe slide down El Toro. Guess we'll never know about that wax
So just to be crystal clear: by stating that you don't ever alter spots, you're saying that you didn't use any wax while filming this video part, right?
That is correct. I've never used wax. I think wax is an abomination, and the idea of using it as a lubricant for skateboarding is abhorrent. In a perfect world, we'd have violent penalties for that sort of thing.
Is there any part of you that is a little bit bummed about this current explosion of creative skateboarding? Do you ever think to yourself, "Hey, that's my shit!"
You know what? It's funny; I was just thinking about this the other day. A John Lydon quote comes to mind. I think in The Filth and the Fury he was talking about how the punks ruined punk by adopting a uniform image and attitude. I'm somewhat ambivalent at the end of the day. I think it's awesome. I love this creative wave that's going on right now. But in a sense, man, it's a little bit of a homogenized creative wave. I'm not sure if it's true individuality. With true individuality comes a real certainty that you will be loathed for what you're doing. Unless you're willing to go into that realm, which is dangerous because your very reputation and social status are at risk—that's where real creativity is. And if it's perfectly acceptable to body varial out of something, that's awesome. But I like the real risk takers, The Gou Miyagis, the William Spencers, those that are truly not afraid.
What's your opinion on Simon Woodstock?
Do you really want to know?
In my mind, religious fundamentalism ruins all things. It even ruins my outlook on somebody's work from the past. Unfortunately, I just can't get past Simon's bat-shit crazy religious life.
This file was named "sideride back 3 no comply flip" but I would've named it the Zappa Zinger
So, to you, his current ideology overshadows what he did as a skateboarder.
Well, the way he presented his skateboarding was as a clown. And, you know, maybe the guys I like—they may be clowns, but they're dead fucking serious. They're not joking. I don't think Gou Miyagi is joking. He's not a clown. He may be perceived as one, but in his mind I don't think he is. And that is more my vibe. I'm not going to come out and be the clown. For how stupid my shit is, I take it very seriously.
So speaking of being a clown—not saying that you are one—what do you think the reaction to your most-recent part would have been if you'd filmed the entire thing in a pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt?
I honestly couldn't tell you, but I would never do that. What's scary to me, probably because I lived through the '90s, is how fast trends change. Like, in the credits of this video I say the word "swag" when I wipe out, and that word is already gone. That word is already extinct from when I started filming this part. It's the same with clothing. So I feel sketched out wearing the currently-acceptable gear because I know that it's toast in two years time. I know I'm going to look back and be, like, "Aw fuck. Why was I wearing that?" So instead, it's probably self-preservation wearing all this '70s shit because I've taken myself out of the stylistic loop. I've just kinda wrapped myself in a fossil that's already fuckin' lame and I can just hang out there. I think it's an insulation against development and movement of skate fashion.
But do your outfits ever feel like a chore? Do you ever feel like you're doing something similar to what Simon Woodstock was doing with the clown costume? Do you ever just want to put on a pair of sweatpants and a tank top or something equally as unstylish—not trying to fit in with what the norm is. Do you ever just not want to put the gear on? Do you ever just want to put on a pair of cargo shorts?
Fuck no. I guess that's where we differ because I've never felt that. I'm happy in what I'm wearing and I'd be extremely unhappy to put on a pair of cargo shorts. That would ruin my fucking day.
I wasn't saying I personally want to wear a pair of cargo shorts. I was just wondering if that aspect of—you know, you've created a persona and a vibe and it includes the clothing. I just wondered if it the outfits ever felt like a burden.
Fuck no. I love it.
If you had never picked up a skateboard, what do you think you'd be doing right now?
I'd be painting. I think I'm supposed to be a painter, but I prefer skating because I find it more difficult. I'm not naturally talented; I have to work really fucking hard for anything I get on a skateboard and that's more attractive to me and I get more out of it. But maybe when my legs don't work I'll pick up a paintbrush.
I'm paraphrasing here, but in a previous interview you stated that the best compliment you could receive about a video part is that it made somebody want to go out and try one of your tricks. Is that correct?
I believe so. I think there used to be a mentality where in order to be entertained you had to see something that you would never be capable of doing in your lifetime. I think skateboarding is a more interactive world than that, you know, the whole mentality of watching skating and thinking, "I could probably do that therefore that fucking sucks," that was always alien to me. What I do really love about this current wave of creativity is that you see the idea and you're like, "Wow, that was really cool. I could go out and try that today." That's exciting to me.
Essentially we're talking about relatable skating as opposed to a high-risk approach.
Not even. More just like the introduction of new ideas. When that Scottish kid, Sammy Bethune, came out with those preverts where he was turning as he was popping into backside flips and that kind of thing, that got me stoked! So I'm straight out of the fucking house to my local spot of flat ground to learn that. It's not so much that it needs to be relatable; I just need it to be new and exciting, that's all.
So what's next for Richie Jackson?
I'm jumping straight into a part for the Death skateboards vid, Into The Void.
Is there anybody you want to thank?
Thrasher, Death skateboards, Servant footwear, Juju bearings, Hotshot handle and Software hardware.
And, lastly, what do you want to tell the kids out there?
Don't listen to old people's advice.
Are you included in that group?
I'm fuckin' getting there, aren't I?
Luckily for Richie, that yellow barrier was just chilling up there. Curtain-closing spiral slide. Not bad for an old guy
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