Back in 1998, Jay Strickland created a sketchy independent skate video called Baker Bootleg… And the kids fucking ate it up. Developing the concepts, art and aesthetic, his videos became the artistic foundation for Baker Skateboards which J started with Andrew Reynolds and he became the creative director for. Afterwards, J went on to create Bootleg skateboards, Baker’s original sister company, which he says eventually ended up in the bin due to “backstabbing shit”. If you want to read more about that whole situation check out the 48 Blocks interview with him from 2008, which is probably one of our favorite interviews ever.
Now back in the mix doing art for LE (Life Extension skateboards), it’s only a matter of time to see how his new shit gets received. I guess I should add in a disclaimer thing about how this is what went down from J’s perspective, but fuck – you already know that.
Tell me about designing the Baker Logo.
The original elephant drawing was my little character, and the font is actually just impact font but I hand traced it with a sharpie, so it’s a little off. People trip on it like, “it’s just a font,” but nah I actually hand drew everything. Even the boxes were hard drawn. The red white and black colors were crucial too. I’ve had little kids talk shit to me, wearing a Baker logo shirt, saying like, ”why’d you steal Andrews ideas?” And it’s like they are wearing a shirt I designed while Andrew Reynolds was out doing drugs. He didn’t draw that, he wasn’t there when it was made, he didn’t approve it. It just came out and he was psyched on it. People think it was his creative genius. Even my character, which he has tattooed on his arm, people say I ripped off his animal. I don’t get mad, but it’s like really? It has to be like this?
How was it working in the early days of Baker?
For a long time I did Baker outta my house, and there were no mobile phones at the time, so I had an answering machine and would get crazy calls all the time. Photographers looking for skaters, Andrew and them doing some stupid crack hijinx, crazy threats and so on. Jamie Thomas called when all his riders quit to ride for us. Like once Trainwreck quit to ride for Bootleg that was the final straw, he was just crying about it on the phone and how Trainwreck leaving was gonna put Zero under and how he needs the money. I never told any of them to quit, they all came to me saying they wanted to ride for us.
So your videos kinda gave birth to Baker Skateboards?
Baker started off my independent videos. Which people still get it twisted and those dudes still try to swipe it under the rug but like, Baker Bootleg and Baker2G weren’t Baker Skateboards videos. That’s why those videos have never come out on DVD man, they’ve only been on VHS. Cause I haven’t released the rights for anything to be re-released, I own them, along with Per Welinder.
Those independent videos were the test, Dustin and Greco had to prove themselves in Baker2G for us to even get the opportunity to start Baker Skateboards. They took the biggest risk, because it was sketchy. Letting me make a video which people thought was probably not gonna work.. but then it worked and it popped off. That was all on me. You can’t erase that, and they don’t even acknowledge it. That’s how simple it is. For Andrew not to mention that, it’s wack. As far as Baker goes, Greco was the only skater that helped out in the image. None of those dudes helped.
Taking a step back – how it was working at Birdhouse before doing Baker?
[Jeremy] Klein had keys to Birdhouse so we would like go in there and work at night and shit cause it sucked in the daytime with all the corpo people in there. For The End, we were just like having stripper tryouts in Per Welinder’s office. Then we ratcheted it up and got the pornstars and all that shit. That was like when skating was fun. He was always about fucking with fools. Klein was of those people who taught me to take work serious, but also clown the dude that ain’t doing that type of shit. Now a days I would get fired for that at Dwindle or somewhere else. Deluxe is maybe the only other place where maybe that could happen. Back in the day, I didn’t give a fuck, I used to smoke weed in there and shit. It was all good.
Were you trippin out once you started doing graphics and working with Jeremy Klein?
That was one of the best parts about working at Birdhouse, just meeting Jeremy Klein and working with him. The whole graphic thing, I always thought it was a big thing, like it would be so insane to do graphics. But working with him, Klein is all like, you just fucking do it and that’s it. There’s no specific way of doing skate graphics and there’s no qualms with ripping off anything. That’s what inspired me to do the Baker thing. As long as it was cool or correlated with the skater or was funny it would work. Jeremy was always like, “oh fuck it man, the company deals with the cease and desist… They’re not gonna come take my shit!”
When you were Birdhouse team manager did you get a credit card and charge whatever you wanted?
Oh hell no, they were hella stingy actually, I didn’t have a card for a long time. They would just break off petty cash and send me to Europe. If you weren’t going with Tony [Hawk], you were assed out going ghetto style. I would shell out a lot of my own doe and get reimbursed. If Tony Hawk came on a trip, he was throwing that platinum craze around, you didn’t have to pay for shit and were staying at a 4 star spot eating steak. But otherwise if he wasn’t there it was like $25 bucks a day and motel 6’s eating fast food. It was two different worlds working for Birdhouse.
You created Baker’s original sister company, Bootleg, so what do you think of Deathwish?
I think Deathwish is sick, because they expanded their ideas, they weren’t dead horsing my shit or ideas. It was like a whole new thing. They are doing some cool shit in skating graphic wise and their riders and mayhem. That’s how Baker was supposed to be. Baker hit the wall because Andrews just apathetic about everything. He doesn’t have to do anything to be creative.
Seems like Greco is one of the dudes that works pretty hard at it.
I’ll keep it real man, I gotta hella respect for Greco. I see Deathwish pop off and I know that was Jim’s drive. I know that those concepts and a lot of those boards were him. He’s the only kid that sat there with me when I was doing the Baker videos and graphics and that’s why his graphics were dope. I helped facilitate his vision. That was the only fool that helped on Baker ever. He had the dream – he quit Zero, he took the risk.
Have you talked to Andrew Reynolds recently?
Nah, I mean its kind of one of those things, I’ve seen the dude once. I try to keep it cool because of the past that we had. I’m not gonna cause a scene and disrespect you and like beat your ass in front of a bunch of skate fools. It’s just a reminder like, I’m still out here you can try and sweep that shit under the rug but I’m still here.
That’s kinda like the thing with all those dudes like Shane or Andrew, all they ever had to do is reach out to me and apologize and be a man about it, and I can get over that shit real quick. If they did, I would have been dead cool with that. Just not acknowledging it, that’s the problem. But it never happened and it won’t happen because I think the reality for Andrew personally is that he has to be protected and everyone around him has to be kissing his ass.
Not even a phone call or text?
No. It’s like yo man, I respect them as skaters, Andrew is still one of the illest skaters. I’m not saying he fucking sucks at skating cause he pissed me off and burned me for mad cheese and I have to struggle just to pay rent. It’s like damn man they’re not even gonna respect my shit. That’s just keeping it real. When I left Baker, Robin tried to do all these shitty graphics and all these different Baker ads for 2 or 3 years, but then they went back to my shit, and now there’s a Shane [Heyl] board just like my style. You’re just trying to write me off, at the end of the day you’re still doing my shit man. That’s what the problem is, it’s respect bro.
I heard there was some controversy with your footage and Transworld back in the day?
For the Transworld Feedback video, almost that whole Andrew Reynolds part was all my footage, and they paid me like $600 for all of it. It just pissed me off, it wasn’t even my rent for like 1 month. That was 2 years of my life. I don’t have rich parents paying for my shit.. it just wasn’t feasible. That was ill shit too, the kickflip in Paris alone was worth $600 as far as I’m concerned.
And after Birdhouse I was on my own, I was just filming the Baker2G video and I’d been filming Heath as well. I was kind of like Heath’s personal filmer. So when Transworld approached me about Heath’s footage for their next video, Sight Unseen, I told Heath straight up, that I wasn’t going to get punked. I had a chip on my shoulder because someone like Transworld, like you can’t pay top dollar for something?
How much money did they offer you?
So they approach me and I told them, I need $10,000 for the footage, or I’m gonna throw it in the river. They took it all to heart. A lot of people hated on me in the industry for that. They were all like dude you’re a dick! And you know, I’m not really gonna throw Heath’s footage in a river, but it’s like, you’re not gonna punk me with this. Swift [Transworld's former Editor in Chief] was pretty cool about it, he understood. It was 4 years of footage, filming Heath on my own time, my own gas money, trips in the middle of the night, 5 times in the middle of the week… etc. So Swift said we could do it, but I had to expense it out, they couldn’t just give me $10,000. That was fair. It was kind of cool cause I think down the road it kind of opened it up for people to get respected more for high end quality footage.
Your lucky that you had such good guys to film cause every second of footage of Heath is pure $$.
Yeah and that’s the thing with Reynolds too. Even Reynolds in his pile pissdrunx days when it came to filming shit, he was about it. He would be like, “J, Saturday, Silvergear rail. You down?” It was never like, “oh man where do you wanna skate dude?” They knew what they wanted to do, and I think that’s why they are prolific skaters. Heath would just be like, “meet me at midnight at UCI,” and I get there and he’s been there for an hour already just to warm up and be ready. It’s just business. He’s getting the trick, or he’s smashing the shit out of his head and it’s over and I’ll talk to him in a couple of weeks when he’s skating again. The whole posse thing is cool but it kinda of makes it hard, these kids go out 20 deep looking for spots. I think that’s why a lot of skating is watered down now. It’s not taking the fun out of filming, it’s giving kids what they want.
Why did Heath not mind filming with you?
The only reason I got to film with Heath was because I kinda wasn’t like a dickhead filmer dude. He kinda saw the other guys as like too professional, too serious. He had crazy madness, if people were watching him and stuff it would drive him shit bat crazy. I remember one time specifically at UCI there was a dude like a football field away, like across campus and he had a bright orange shirt on. Heath was like tripping out like, “this fucking guy! Jay tell him to leave.” There was a few times I would have to be like, “yo fool keep it movin’, don’t stand there.” I would just shoo mother fuckers away. He was the first skater and still one of the only ones who’s like, “yo meet me at 6 in the morning,” and he’s warmed up and ready to skate. He was on top of his shit as far as that shit went.
You’re an older dude. How was skating different then?
Why I started skating, back in the day it was all about being like, “fuck you,” it didn’t matter, you had your own crew of skaters. Now it’s turned almost to a jock mentality. Some of the best skaters I’ve seen personally none of them are even sponsored and shit. It’s because they rubbed somebody the wrong way or they were just keeping it real and didn’t kiss ass. Half of skating is people that kiss ass. That’s how they get their deal. That was my problem, I was the fool that didn’t wanna kiss ass and that put me back in the gutter. I’ve been happy out of the mix, the stuff I have been doing in skating I’m proud of. The photo book I’m about to launch is something I’m proud of. Working with Trapasso and them on Life Extension, I’m proud to help him with it because it’s real skating shit. I’m sure you guys see it, the Internet is crazy. Skating is wack, you can figure it out in 5 minutes.
How’d you get involved with LE?
The thing with Nick [Trapasso] is he was the last young guy I fucked with in the game, I really put him in the mix. He just asked me, said he needed some help and some advice. They’re on a positive tip, just trying to skate, him and Pat [Sinner] are really good kids. It’s something I believe in. Nobody’s gonna be pretentious, it’s a real skateboard company. It’s like there doing whatever the fuck they want. That’s the skateboarding spirit, you just go for it. Most people wait for approval for people. Being distributed by Blitz kinda sucks but it’s putting the screws to the man. The man still has to cater to the real shit.
Why should anyone care about LE?
These kids keep it real, they are real skaters. Nick [Trapasso], Pat ["Sinner"] and Tony Tave live this shit. These are dedicated kids, not trying to impress the man, like even with me, I’m keeping my distance. I just want to be the weird art guy and help them out. Who they want to put on the team and how much they make, I have nothing to do with it.
I like that LE is starting with a small team because I think a lot of companies have overexpanded.
Yeah. Like when I look at Baker now, it’s like, I never wanted Baker to be that big. It was supposed to just be the illest dudes and now it’s like, Shane Heyl is pro for Baker.. Are you fucking kidding me? And not to talk shit but a lot of the kids now aren’t that exciting. My vision for Baker was just have the best dudes with different styles out. Period.