Skateboarding's landscape and the way it is perceived is almost unrecognizable from when Santa Cruz legend Jason Jessee was making his bones in the 80s. Back then skating was lawless and unloved. There was no money in it and only outsiders -- damaged goods from broken homes -- gravitated towards it. Now parents embrace it as a possible lucrative, career path for their children. Schools have skate leagues and at times it looks more like a jock sports banquet than anything rebellious and unsavory. It's not to say skating is or was better now or then -- it's just different. Beloved lunatics like Jason Jessee with their flamboyant dress and words and their kiss-my-ass-attitude are few and far between. They've been replaced with skaters training to win, win, win and accept their awards with vanilla sound bites that sound like press releases.
And so I found it to be a bold and surprising move this summer when Nike's bastard child, Converse, added the very colorful, very un-PC Jason Jessee to its roster of riders. On one hand the choice is obvious -- Jason brings a heritage to the team much like Lance Mountain does for Nike. Recently Jessee was named number 24 on Transworld Skateboarding's 30 Most Influential Skaters list while Mountain came in at #18 and there's no denying the impact the two have had on our world. Jason cemented his place in the annals of skateboarding with his classic Streets Of Fire video part and his jailbird skits.
Jason Jessee is one of the most charismatic, awkward and awesome people in front and away from the camera and I have been a very big fan of him and his wild ways since my youth when everyone else was fawning over The Bones Brigade. When I got the chance to finally meet and interview Jason this summer I was filled with childish glee and in complete disbelief that it would actually happen -- and it did. What we have here folks, is no different then video proof that Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Easter Bunny all exist and meet on Thursday nights to play poker. You just don't get legendary skater Jason Jessee to sit down or sit still for an interview and catching him in New York City is about as rare as finding one of his Driven Skateboards in America. I sat down with Jason to get the closest thing to a straight answer on how he got on Converse, raising chickens and why he's so big in Japan. Enjoy.
Streets of Fire
His in 1989 Speed Freaks part, which was essentially the filming of two sessions in one day, captures Jason's pure, natural style.
His foray into street skating with his brief part in Speed Wheels' Risk It was hilarious with the social commentary on the art world.
Consolidated Number 1
When he switched to Consolidated in the 90s he helped birth the less-than-serious, joke board graphic series/company that paved the way for the likes of Enjoi and Skate Mental and his short but sweet Number 1 part is still fun to watch two decades later.
Kings of Promotion
His Consolidated "Kings of Promotion" video from 1997 is edited so amazingly tweaked and kicks off with one hell of a sketchy motorcycle ride.
After a falling out with Consolidated ten years ago Jason started his own brand, The Driven, and seemingly disappeared off the radar. When footage of him would surface it was usually shooting automatic weapons or fighting with his chickens or recklessly riding his motorcycles. It was rare to see him skating and yet every frame of every video was as captivating as his frontside airs.