Rue Kant 152 – The Jim Greco Interview

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It is raining, Daniel (Pannemann) and myself are standing at the Heidelberger Platz skatepark. Even though the skatepark is covered by a bridge, small streams of water seem to have consciously made their way to almost each and every obstacle.

My phone rings:

Supra’s Marketing & communications manager: “Can you talk to the cab driver and tell him where to drop us off?”

Taxi driver: “Hello, I am at the supermarket now, where should I drop them off?”

Me “On the opposite of the Carwash, I will meet you there to pick them up.”

I walk over, introduce myself, and we start to make our way to the skatepark. Jim tells me he just went to the studio where Iggy Pop recorded his album “The Idiot” together with Bowie. I tell him that after this, the plan is to have lunch at their Berlin hangout spot.

“sick skatepark!” Jim says as we arrive, and it is but it is obvious that he hasn’t seen the small water streams yet. But after some cruising, he somehow manages to find a dry spot and skates that for about 30-minutes. Afterwards, we hail a taxi and we drive over to the famous Paris Bar.

As we walk in all of us are slightly overwhelmed, the waiter guides us to our table and gives us the menu. After we order, we talk for a bit until I notice I am not recording, I ask Jim if it is okay if I start to record our conversation, he agrees and we continue our conversation.

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Do you still play music?

Yeah, I play guitar, make music occasionally. I’m not a musician though but I just have fun with it.

It’s good though, you’ve had a long career and its good to have other outlets as well.

Yeah, painting and filmmaking are two things that I really like too.

I really like the films, I watched them a lot.

Oh, thank you, man.

I think I rewatched them both like 10 times.

Wow.

The first one was a surprise when it came out and then the second one was like “Hey is this going to be a yearly thing?”.

I’m working on some other stuff now.

Are you still making a new one as well?

Yeah well, this next one I make is going to be for Supra it’s going to be based around my new shoe. But I’m writing a film that has very little skating in it it’s like a full-length film, then I’m working on some projects with Jason Lee. We’re going to work on a film together also Jeremy Klein is making a film and I’m going to be skating in that. I am also helping out with the death wish video, putting that together.

How is that going, cause you’re doing your own boards as well, right?

Yeah, Hammer, I do like two drops of boards a year but it is more like an artistic outlet for me. It is a platform to put films and certain boards out when I want to put certain boards out.

So its kind of like creating your own vibe I guess?

Right, it’s not about making a ton of money.

Yeah, I know, otherwise, you’d probably do something.

Yeah, I just love the company and love making short films and putting out silkscreen boards that are made in America.

They are really silk screened right?

Yeah.

Wow, is the one you were skating silk screened?

That one is a Deathwish board but it is silk screened. Yeah, sometimes I silk screen my graphics for Deathwish too. I just like how the skate and they feel, certain graphics I feel need to be silk screened, they look better.

I really like that. It’s like making something that is mass produced more personal.

Exactly. I feel like it’s more alive when it’s silk-screened it’s more real. I feel like it’s a graphic that I grew up skating. That’s how they were put on a board, more than like heat transfer.

Yeah at the same time though it’s like you putting on the graphic. Which means it’s not perfect and you actually worked on your own board.

Yeah, I don’t do them myself. But I make the artwork and brought it to the silk screener than he burns the screens and I order a hundred or a couple hundred, however many I’d like to sell.

Who makes the boards then, besides the silkscreening? I know they are made in the U.S.A which is very rare.

A factory down in Alabama actually and they’re there… actually, I think its South Carolina not Alabama, sorry.

You have your own friends that are not per say the best skaters right now or where ever but putting them next to you or with you, how it really is, it’s quite nice.

As skateboarding becomes more and more professional you see a lot more focus drifting away from being with your friends. I think with you and Jeremy Klein skating together or making a movie with Jason Lee it’s like Skateboarding being preserved.
I don’t know if many young kids know about the history.

Yeah. Now they’ve got youtube to tell them what the history is. Some of us grew up in it, with magazines and our imagination, now they have youtube and Instagram to teach them. It’s a little bit too invasive at times.

Do you tend to look at Instagram a lot?

I do. I look at Instagram every day, I’m not going to lie.

Right, you don’t have to lie (laughter). It’s normal everybody does it, even if you don’t want to you sometimes even go on Instagram.

But if I’m making new films I don’t really watch new videos that are coming out until I’m done with the films.

I know that feeling, it’s a like when we make the magazine we don’t really look at other magazines because sometimes you get the feeling of “this has been done already” and it is an unproductive feeling.

Right, and you want it to be as honest as possible, as honest as possible to your vision, without your vision being altered.
I want to keep it pure to what is my original intention is.

Yeah, that’s true. It is good maybe to stay away for that time then.

For me, that’s what I usually do. This way, if something even has some similarities to something, that’s out, I won’t be deterred from doing it because it’s a hundred percent honest.

That’s the thing, that the most important thing. Being deterred from something even if you’re initial feeling was like I need to do this it can be kind of stupid in a way. Maybe you just stay away from it then and be able to do it. Yeah, I really agree with that.

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How much influence do your friends have in the movies that you make, like Jeremy Klein for instance, I pretty sure he’s pretty opinionated for instance.

Well, everything that he’s done on a skateboard has influenced me. Just watching him, growing up watching him skate, getting to meet him at a young age skating with him. As far as my movies go I’m the one that makes all the choices and the editing, I compose the shots and do everything and its kind of my vision on how its put together.

I was thinking about the shot when you drag the Bench and I really thought that was amazing because that’s something that normally would have been cut like three times. Everything is set to be like a minute, and the fact that you were just dragging the bench, I think it was super good. It’s the same with movies it cuts out so much “reality” when you actually cut the shot.

People are in a rush sped up the process because they’re in fear of kids having a small attention span now. I want it to go against that. Show that no you can have a movie that doesn’t have to be like seven minutes long with just trick trick trick, time-lapse photography, a quick cut of a homeless person, it’s not about that and there’s a way to do it in a way that you can express your self in a way you want to and show what really goes into things.

Yeah, it’s the same I guess when you show multiple tries also the tries that you don’t make. Or not even only you but also the other people around you like more having a feeling of a session almost. Instead of alright this is a trick were in were out, this is how its been for a long time.

Because it’s not reality-based if you make the trick every time. When I went there to try the 270 to lipslide I told them it doesn’t matter if I make it or not, it is really about what is going to happen here.  In the end, I came close, I probably could have continued to go there and really do it but I don’t even carwhetherer I make it or not.

I think that’s good.

Cause that is the reality of it.

Yeah!

With the dragging of the bench, I wanted to show, that this is not a spot, that was transported here this is really how I skate this spot. It is being dragged by hand down the street in broad daylight in front of all these cars and people and that’s the whole idea behind it.

Yeah, it’s like a good feeling that people can relate with that’s not shown that.

Exactly.

That’s what I think is really good about your films, there’s a sense of time, you need to take some time to be with it. You know when I’m watching it, the scenes they go on and it forces me to stay concentrated. And the music is also quite different to a lot of other skate videos, I guess it is a movie project with skateboarding in it.

Thanks, that was a tough thing to find the music for it, it was tough.

No without you I don’t think I would’ve found the Cocteau Twins, you picked some really amazing songs by them. It was not a band that was on my radar before that.

Thanks, Jeremy introduced me to that band being young and reading interviews of Jeremy Klein talk about this band the Cocteau Twins, and me being influenced by him at a very young age. I bought some CD’s of the Cocteau Twins and I would always listen to them before I even met Jeremy just because I read about it in an interview and then he skated to them in his Birdhouse part, (his Ravers part) he skates to Iceblink Luck from the Heaven or Las Vegas album. Which is the album I chose a song for in The Year 13 film, *Cherry-Coloured Funk.

*Cocteau Twins – Cherry-Coloured Funk

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Yeah, that song is amazing!

And then we also used it in The Way Out, Blind Dumb Deaf.

That one is amazing, such a good song to skate to, before that you have another song that more relaxed and then all of the sudden there’s a pretty big session starting, it works.

Yeah, that had a nice flow, that one worked out.

You also used, Se Telefonando*, I think the song is called?

*Mina – Se Telefonando

Yeah, Italian pop music.

Does that have to do with your roots maybe?

Yeah, I got into Mina from watching Martin Scorsese films, Scorsese is great with music I learned about a lot of bands from watching his films!

It is also not that common to have music with other languages in skateboarding there’s a lot of English music, that’s quite cool to have some non-English music. It’s also, well I don’t know how much you think of it, but its also a tool to show people what you are into, to inspire people.

(food arrives. food and sauce talk)

Back to your own skateboards how do you think of the graphics, via painting?

Yeah a lot of them will be ideas that I have in my head, paintings I make for hammers USA.
I worked on a really good new one for Deathwish that depicts the battle to stay clean or get loaded, it kind of shows what’s going on in my head.
You know and there’s a Phone on the bad thought side and a skateboard on the good thoughts side and the good thoughts are bright with light and the bad thoughts are swirling in the background in the darkness, I had a really good artist oil paint the perfect picture of this.

Wow!

Yeah, I have it on my phone, I would show you but my phones dead. But it is a special graphic, one I am really happy about, we worked very hard on it.

That’s good. Do you get excited when you are skating those boards?

Yeah, yeah.

I guess its more exciting than logo boards.

Yeah, and for another one there’s a painting of Miles Davis.

Everyone likes Miles Davis right?

I like Bitches Brew, it’s a really good one.

Yeah, you have to get into it for a bit to feel it but it’s good music to think too.

For me, it is to create, paint, skate. I often like put on random classical music records when I paint too. They are really cheap records from Amoeba, a local record store. When I hear classical music for some reason I can paint, it helps me paint.

What do you paint with? Do you paint with oil?

Oil paints, oil sticks, acrylic.

Do you have a studio or do you do it in your house?

In my house. I have a loft that’s just a rectangular loft it is an open floor with open space.

Wow, probably with good lighting?

Really good lighting.

It’s quite important. That’s nice. I think it’s always pretty important to have the studio or if it is a loft it’s still your studio, to have that quite close to where you live. So when you have the moment and you’re like okay I want to do this you can immediately go do it.

Yeah.

The spots you skate are they close to your house?

Yeah pretty much, a lot of the spots I skate are very close by, within skating distance. The brick transitions are a few blocks from my house, the curbs I skate are around my house, the bench is kinda far from the house, you got to drive its in South. But yeah downtown L.A. is like a big spot, I like to skate the city like a spot. Go and skate from spot to spot.

I noticed that change where you were not skating big spots just going and skating. More like the feeling when you’re cruising I guess, not going to something that has a name.

Yeah, it is more of an accurate picture of what skateboarding is really like. Once again wanting to show that side of it. Introduce a degree of real-time into it, in sections.

It’s nice that it is all around your house. Normally unless you have a certain thing you want to do your not going to go and drive that far, your like okay, you grab your board and have some fun.

Yeah, it’s cool. It’s definitely a blessing to live in L.A. I have all the spots around.

But you didn’t grow up there, right?

I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut. Close to New York City, an hour and a half train ride away. Lots of stuff to skate in New Haven.

Do you still go back sometimes?

I do yeah, twice a year. Yeah, fun.

I can imagine its probably quite different I mean, being from the east coast, right?

Yeah, the weathers pretty brutal. It gets pretty cold in the winter and hot in the summer. You get four months of good weather.

Do you miss that sometimes in L.A.? Seasons?

Ahh, I miss it I like fall and spring. So, I can definitely feel when there’s a change in weather between fall and spring, winter and summer. Winters never bad though for me in L.A. summers sometimes can get gnarly.

We were in New York last year in summer and I thought it was pretty intense. So humid and it is pretty…  I don’t know, if L.A. is that smelly but I would say that New York smells, it smells like hot trash!

(laughing) How long were you guys there?

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A week, a little bit more than a week. It was amazing.

Yeah, heading out there on the 17th for a week to film to film Keith, Shredmaster Keith, I’m going to shoot him for is part in the Deathwish video.

Ah ah, he’s on Deathwish. That’s a good pick.

Yeah, I’m want to capture him in his environment. Kinda how he skates New York like a city like a spot a city as a spot.

It is very much possible in New York because we would just run into random things you could just skate. And the city is quite good to cruise I thought it would be harder to roll through but its okay.

Yeah, a lot of fun spots.

And it just looks beautiful.

It does. Yeah. Berlin looks really good, on footage.

Yes, it is, it’s really good. It has not the same vibe but some people say it’s like New York in Europe. A lot of graffiti.

Yeah, the architecture is nice.

It changes a lot, there is a big difference between the West and the East.

Yeah, East is a little more crusty, right?

Yes, but it’s also got the more spots. It is pretty cool you can drive into random sites with fences around and most of the time they won’t bother you. Yeah, you can just find some spot or put some stuff together.

(more food arrives)

So how has the (Supra) tour been so far?

Good.

Was it three cities?

No, four.

How have you liked it so far?

Love it, I love Europe, it is great. I like Berlin a lot and I liked Paris, Brussels was a beautiful city too. A lot of stuff I liked. next year I’ll go to Italy to shoot a thing for my new Supra shoe.

I’ve never been to Italy, I want to go, you’ve probably been before right, to Italy?

One time, to Milan, but I want to go to the south.

Yeah, go to Naples?

Yeah.

Do you know where your roots in Italy stem from?

Naples.

That’s cool, I heard some good stories about the city actually.

Yeah, it’s going to be cool, shooting there.

So are the new shoes going to be dress shoe-inspired?

Yeah, similar to the one I did a while back with Vans. I tried to do this before, like thirteen years ago.

Was it the Escobar maybe?

Yeah exactly, it was my third shoe but the execution was focused more on an athletic last and now we are doing a more dress-shoe oriented last but one that’s athletic enough to work for skateboarding. Just enough. We wanted it pointier. Basically, I just wanted to be able to skate it and hang out in it and not rush to take my shoes off, because I like wearing dress shoes more than anything. I just wish I could skate in them you know.

That’s so hard though.

And I like how dress shoes are lasting. I typically wear loafers but there are too many slip-ons out there right now to do one.

Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s like slip on time somehow right now, it was gone for a moment and it has come back now.

I like skating in like leather because it protects my foot and lasts long. But the first one will be in suede, blue suede. Like Elvis.

What color is the sole?

Blue. Like all blue.

That’s sick. I think its quite cool to have tonal color shoe.

Yeah, I like that.

I’m pretty excited to see it. Have You been trying on some samples and stuff?

I squeezed my foot in a sample (size nine) but I’m an eleven. So I can’t really.

Lucky people who have a size nine foot they can try their own shoe.

I know sample size right.

As far as clothing goes, you don’t have a clothing sponsor any more right?

Nah, nothing out there I’m really hyped on, to be honest. Except for like Levi’s, Levi’s is really cool I wear the Jeans. I’m going to work with Supra on making some clothes, something special.

Special items?

Yeah, special items, they asked me to help out.

I think clothes are pretty important, they are overlooked sometimes, a lot of the skaters look the same.

I love skating in nice clothes.

Me too. It can cause problems sometimes though when you find a new shirt and slam.

Yeah, I know. Anytime I find something like a new shirt I just ruin it right away, like the fastest.

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Are you still shooting on film for the next film?

I shoot on a combination of film and HD.

Do you filter everything through film then?

I chose a different process, I take the HD and make a 35mm negative print of the HD and bring that down and digitize it back in so it exists on film.

Wow, I also saw that Kodak was involved in the last one somehow?

Yeah, they were involved, they were definitely stoked. I talked to them about working together.

I’ve heard they’re a little tough with budget stuff?

They are, it’s odd.

(Jim takes a look around the bar)

I can’t believe that shot of Gazzara. Did you ever see him in Killing of a Chinese Bookie?

No, I’m going to write that down.

John Cassavetes. Did you ever see him in Husbands?

No.

Watch him in Husbands it’s unbelievable. In The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) he plays a guy that’s recruited by the mob to kill a Chinese bookie to fulfil a debt for gambling and I drew a lot of my influence from John Cassavetes, you can see a lot in Cassavetes, you’ll see a lot of similarities in Cassavetes work.

I’m going to go away from this with a whole list of movies and songs. That’s cool. I like the fact that you’ve seen a lot and know the names. It makes a difference.

Yeah man, its good to have those influences and hopefully I expose other people to them and I they can draw the same influence from it.

I’m definitely going to check it out for sure.

I’ll be in L.A. fucking going to bed waking up and going skating. Waking up and picking up my car. I’m getting my car painted right now.

You are getting your car painted.

Yes, because the paint job was so bad for so many years and it had a dent from somebody hitting it. So when I was leaving for this trip I priced how much it was going to do for paint job and bodywork, and it was going to be ten days so I was like I’ll just drop the car off the day before and when the trip is over I’ll go to sleep when I go home, wake up and take a cab down there and pick my car up. And it will look like a brand new car.

That’s smart. What color are you getting?

The original color, it’s like a blue, it’s like a blue like that (light blue). It was in The Way Out, I don’t know if you’ve seen the film. Its the car I drive. Its a 78 Cadillac, Deville, two doors. It’s beautiful, so nice.

What color Porsche would you get if you could get one?

A Porsche?

Yeah.

A brown one or navy blue.

A brown one. That’s nice, a brown colored car you don’t see that often.

No, I saw one in L.A that I like. Brown with a tan leather interior.

Would you get a new one or a classic one?

A brand new one. I like the Rolls Royce too. Wish I had a brand new one.

Did you ever drive a Rolls?

No, but I see them and they look really cool.

 

Supra’s Marketing & Communications Manager: Guys I just paid, we need to go or we are going to be late to our signing.

Ok, I think we got it anyway let’s go to the signing. Thanks for the time Jim! 

Scan 100

Text & interview by Roland Hoogwater

Photos by Daniel Pannemann

Polaroid by Jim Greco shot during his time in Berlin.