Jon Dickson Interview

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Jon Dickson’s closing part in the latest Emerica video offering GREEN is a perfect puzzle piece in the brand’s ongoing narrative. It perpetuates the rich visual output of a company whose past releases stand as milestones in the wider history of full-length skateboarding videos.

Slightly deviating from tradition without shifting vision; GREEN is a refreshing and well-crafted entry which lit up our screens last month and Dickson’s part hit like a sledgehammer blow.

The format GREEN introduces, two heavy parts bookending a montage, both delivers and is indelible. This cinematic slice of Americana enmeshed with Gene Clark’s hypnotic melody is trademark Jon Miner story telling, which invites the viewer into the van with Dickson and Dakota Servold.

Jon Dickson is usually someone who lets his skating do the talking. So, when we heard we had the chance to speak to him about what went into this project we were eager to delve some more into the process which culminated in the part we can’t stop humming.
 
Interview by Jacob Sawyer
 

Kickflip Crooked Grind. Photo: Kyle Seidler

 

First off congratulations on the GREEN part, it’s amazing. A complete continuation of the Emerica legacy. Heavy, like a slice of Heath Kirchart or Andrew Reynolds, with every bit as much attention to detail. How are you feeling now that it’s out there?

I really appreciate that, thank you very much. I mean, it was rad to get to work on a video with Dakota [Servold]. The whole process was just awesome and I’m glad that it came out the way it did with Miner editing it. People seem to be hyped on it so that’s pretty good.

Is there a kind of a comedown after such an epic project or is it a relief?

It’s a relief for sure but it’s a never-ending process. There’s just another video to start working on so you just have to get back to it.

What’s next, something for Deathwish?

Yeah, we’re working on some sort of Deathwish video. It’s supposed to come out towards the end of this year so it’s crunch time. Straight back into it

You love the process of it all though, right?

Yeah, totally and it keeps me busy so that’s good.

What was the timeline of working on GREEN?

I’m not exact with the dates, but we had about a year to film for it.

Does that feel like it’s about the right amount of time for you to get together a video part?

Yeah, I’m still kind of new to all of this internet stuff. There’s so much stuff coming out it’s kind of hard to keep up. I grew up in the days where you would wait for a video to come out on VHS and it might take a couple of years to get a full-length video out. A year was good, but I wouldn’t mind having a little more time.

Maybe for the next Emerica video…

They’re going keep this thing going. They’re going start working on another video with Colin [Provost] and Figgy, the same format, two parts and some kind of montage in between so that should be pretty cool.

It definitely works and in this age of dwindling attention spans it’s a bite sized alternative to a full-length which stands out. This came across as a really organic, tight knit project. Working with Jon Miner, Tim Cisilino [Emerica TM] and Dakota it seems like you guys had the ideal situation and drive. Like a great working relationship…

Yeah, everybody on the team is for the most part really good friends so it’s just like one big family.

Rather than the standalone video part, filming with one other person must be a good motivating force, you’re both invested in the process

Oh yeah, 100%. It was awesome working with Dakota, we were just feeding off each others skating and keeping each other motivated to get out there and get it. It was a great process.

Dakota Servold and Jon Dickson in the van and on a mision Photo: Kyle Seidler

 

It was awesome working with Dakota, we were just feeding off each others skating and keeping each other motivated to get out there and get it. It was a great process

 

At this point, with some serious parts under your belt, did you go into filming GREEN with a pretty good idea of stuff to do or did it just started rolling?

I don’t really have a plan most of the time. I just want to jump in the van and wherever we end up I can think of something to try. There will be tricks that I would like to get but not necessarily spots that I want to get the tricks on.

I’d much rather go out on a whim and find something and think, “Maybe this could work for that.” That’s how I like going about it, I don’t want to think about a spot and then stress about trying a trick. I don’t really plan ahead I just go with the flow and see where we end up.

You don’t obsess?

I try not to beat myself up about shit like that when I can just go out and something could come to mind when we’re there.

Were you closely involved in the editing process?

I would go over there a little bit, I went over there a couple of times. I’m just fully comfortable knowing Miner will do a great job. He knows what he’s doing so I just leave it up to him. That’s what he’s good at, I don’t want to get in there and start telling him what to do [laughs].

Do you have a difference in approach to filming a Deathwish video part to an Emerica one?

Not necessarily. I’ll take the same approach and mentality from filming for the GREEN part.

Where does this part sit as far as your favourite video parts go? Is there one you’re happiest with?

I’m just getting older so I’m just trying to keep up. In my own head, I feel that I could always do a little better but that’s just me being hard on myself. Everyone does it, thinks they can do better; that just keeps the drive going to keep getting it.

So, lots of filming trips for this one. Texas, Arizona, Sacramento and Walnut Creek – Corey Duffel’s hometown. Was there anywhere in particular you liked?

I really liked Texas, any time I get to go to Texas I’m down. I have a lot of friends out there. But Walnut Creek was a really fun trip too because I had never been up there before and I actually spent some time out there just skating. It was really nice, a good country vibe, spacious, rolling hills with all of these paths you can walk through. Lots of trails, a really cool place.

Yeah, it’s beautiful. I went there once before; our friend Travis Graves took us out there. He was one of the older guys who would skate with Corey Duffel when he was just a kid, he showed us around a little bit.

Damn that’s epic, it’s a really good time up there. But definitely Texas. Texas is so much fun.

What trick took you longer than you bargained for and what came easier that you thought might be a battle?

I would probably say the half-cab heelflip noseslide was a tough one to get. Then the half-cab flip front nose surprisingly happened faster than I ever would have thought it would.

On the wedge hubba…

Yeah, the first one I got into I ended up landing and I shocked myself, like, “What the hell was that?” It was one of those moments.

Tim said that you had been there and tried that once before and then you chanced upon the spot again…

Yeah, a long, long time ago. It’s funny, I was actually there on an Emerica trip. I wasn’t on Emerica at the time but if there was an extra seat, and Colin and Figgy were going, Miner would let me jump in the van and come on the trip. We were there one night and I was just fucking around and flinging some half-cab flip noseslides at it.

I never fully got into one and nothing came of it. We were going to Arizona on this GREEN filming trip, which is five or six years after that first session. We got there and I thought, “I guess I could try this again,” and it ended up working out.

The big bump to wall kickflip, where is that?

That one is in LA.

And you wanted to skate that thing for years?

Yeah, it’s one of those things that you always pass by and think, “Whoa, that would be cool to do something over.” One of those spots you drive by but never stop and look at it.

Flawless catch. Kickflip. Photo: Kyle Seidler

 

But then you went and got that the same day?

I think we didn’t know what to go and look at that day and I said let’s go and look at that thing as we were already in the area, lets actually go and look at it for once. We stopped and I just felt like skating it that day.

One trick in your arsenal I love seeing is the nollie flip backside lipslide. So proper, like two separate tricks. Is that a scary one for you? Such a blind take off…

Ah, thanks man. Yeah, on that one there was weird kind of crack before it so there were a couple of times I would get a weird pop off the crack and flail myself backwards down the rail. It was just a hard one to get into.

I like how you do the noseslide 270 shuv on ditch ledge in Deathwish Part Two and a switch one on a ledge in GREEN. Do you think about this stuff and the evolution of your parts or am I reading into it?

I just think of random shit when I get somewhere, I wasn’t even thinking of comparing a trick from a part before. It was more a case of I was just looking at the ledge and thinking about that trick. I thought let me try a switch front nose but think of it as a back tail bigspin. It was one of those weird random thoughts, “This might work…”

I really like that trick. I’ve tried to do it and kind of got it to work but haven’t landed one yet.

Well hey, back tail big spin straight up, if you think of it like that it makes sense.

This is me trying to weave in the trick evolution aspect again but the kickflip boardslide on the knobbed San Clemente rail in MADE Chapter Two and then the switch one in GREEN, you’re telling a story…

Now that one is more like what you were talking about with the last question. We were there one day, and Dakota was trying to get a trick on it. I was skating it with him and did a couple of switch boardslides on it. Then we ended up leaving that day and I started thinking I could try to do a switch flip boardslide on it. A couple of weeks passed by and we ended up going back for Dakota to get his trick. I started trying some and just lucked out and got away with it. I did think it would be kind of cool, going from the last Emerica part to this one.

The bright blue ender to Green. photo: KYLE SEIDLER

 

Your last trick, the ollie into the bank. That spot is close to where you live right? Long Beach?

Yeah, it’s in San Pedro right over the bridge.

Tim said you looked at that for years and slammed just dropping in on the bank once before?

[Laughs]. Yeah there’s a couple of other spots there at that school that a lot of people have skated before. There’s a 12-stair rail. There’s a bump to down rail with the weird poles, Leo [Romero] did a gap to nosegrind on it and Marquis Preston front lip’d it. But the bank is there at that same school, every time you go there you would see this thing.

It had always been on my mind that it would be nice to ollie into that thing. We were coming down to the deadline for the video and I hadn’t got anything for a last trick. It was one of those things, took some time, one day I was just like let’s go try this. For years I would just go there and look at it, then leave. We’d go back there a bunch, not specifically to look at the bank but we would be there skating the school. Then this one day we went there to try it and it ended up working out fortunately.

And the CVS Pharmacy kickflip that closes Made Chapter Two is something you would see on a daily basis?

Yeah, this dude, a long time ago: Vince Del Valle. He’s the shit. He cracked an ollie into it a long time ago, I think there was a photo of it, and I was like, “Damn!” You can ride along the top of it? Most people would do tail drops off of it but I was stoked to find out you could ride along the top.

Same situation, it was coming up to the deadline and I needed a last trick. One day I hit up Miner early in the morning and was like, “Yo! Let’s go and check that thing out”. I hit up Atiba and he had some shit he had to go and do at 12 or 1 in the afternoon, but I got him to cruise down so we could try and get it really quick and see what was up with it. He cruised down, we checked it out.

I was up there looking at it and then the security guard made his round and told me to get down or he was going to call the cops. I jumped down and we crossed the street to the van to wait for him to finish his round. When he disappeared, we ran back over there, and I jumped up and tried the kickflip a couple of times.

Long Beach Kickflip from made chapter two. Photo: Atiba Jefferson

 

Both things which closed out each Emerica part were things you would see or pass by on a regular basis. There’s a certain poetry there.

The spot in San Pedro I wouldn’t see as often but any time we were over there there’s a good chance we’d end up at that school. But the other spot, the CVS one, I believe it’s off of Seventh Street, it’s on the way to the Freeway. Leaving or entering Long Beach, you have to pass by it.

This leads me on to the music. The Gene Clark song works perfectly, kind of tells the tale of you and Dakota working together on some level too. Miner picked that?

Yes, Miner did pick that, I sent him a list of songs and he just responded with, “I have already found the song.” He sent me the tune and then he sent me a big long message detailing why I should use it which is pretty sick.

But you’re a Gene Clark fan?

I hadn’t really heard too much of it before, I was familiar with it, but I hadn’t really dug into his stuff. But the song is great, that whole album is really good, it’s really sad.

What other tunes did you have in mind or would that be blowing the next part?

Yeah just a bunch of random psych shit, some old ‘60s and ‘70s hard rock shit, you know? He was like, “That’s kind of been played out so we should use something else.”

Who is the greatest American songwriter? I clocked the Warren Zevon shirt.

[Laughs]. I’m a big fan of him, Warren Zevon is the shit. That fool’s dope!

Tell the kids reading this two essential albums to go and buy or download or whatever they need to do…

I was just jamming some Ultimate Spinach a second ago. Let me just look through some stuff, I’ll find some good shit for them… Apryl Fool, they’re a Japanese psych rock band. Also Speed, Glue & Shinki. We’ll keep it in Japan, check those out.

Long distance 50-50. Photo: KYLE SEIDLER

 

Made Chapter Two, Deathwish videos, this project… Lots of graft over the past five years. You’re hard working and prolific putting out water tight video parts that are well crafted. How important do you think the full-length video is to skateboarding and proper parts of this nature?

I’m a big fan of full-length videos, but with the internet these days it almost seems hard to do that, there’s just so much content constantly. For a proper full-length video, I feel like it needs to be almost three years for everyone to get what they want comfortably. You remember how long it took for a full-length video to come out?

 

For a proper full-length video, I feel like it needs to be almost three years for everyone to get what they want comfortably. You remember how long it took for a full-length video to come out?

 

Yeah, and then you would watch that thing to death.

Yeah, you would burn the tape out.

But then Welcome To Hell is part of why you fell in love with skateboarding so that process holds weight…

Yeah, for sure. I mean, there are pluses and negatives to the whole internet, social media stuff. One of the negatives would be that there aren’t very many full-length videos anymore.

From watching that video as a kid to riding for Jamie Thomas, Tony Hawk before that and Reynolds; what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from working with all of these guys who are so very deep in the game?

Just skate, that’s all you’ve really got to do. Try and keep a good head on your shoulders and ride your board, don’t let anything else get in the way of that.

What’s your most watched part in an Emerica video?

That would have to be [Erik] Ellington or Leo’s bit in This Is Skateboarding.

You took the Wino G6 and made it your own. Congratulations on the pro shoe. Are you stoked on it?

Thank you, it means a lot. We got to base it on the Wino G6 because I was told they were going to discontinue that shoe the coming year. I was fortunate enough to work on a shoe with them. We took that shoe and made some subtle changes to the toe cap and the side. We put this ‘Flick Shield’ in there.

How is that ‘Flick Shield’ working out?

Yeah it’s good, it holds that toe. The toe cap doesn’t flop or get stretched out as much, that piece of rubber in there keeps it solid, stops it getting loose on your foot.

You saved your favourite shoe and improved it…

Yeah that’s what I tried to do.

That G6 stuff must work because you put those things through their paces…

Yeah, it’s pretty good, it’s keeping my feet alright over here.

Everyone always asks you about how your sobriety was sparked from a bet with Figgy. How has that decision worked for you? Do you think it’s helped putting parts together?

Yeah, to get it straight I wouldn’t consider myself sober because I still smoke weed, I just don’t drink. Figgy and I made the bet. We were on a Vol 4 trip, I was actually flying out from the trip to get married. Before I left, I made that bet with him to go 100 days, no drinking and no smoking, for 100 bucks.

That just sparked it, I did the 100 days and after that I didn’t feel the need to do it. So, I thought let’s see how long I can go, and I haven’t had a drink since. It’s going to be four years in May. For sure I think it’s helped a lot of things. It’s helped my skating as well as a lot of other stuff. It was a safe bet.

 

That just sparked it, I did the 100 days and after that I didn’t feel the need to do it. So, I thought let’s see how long I can go, and I haven’t had a drink since. It’s going to be four years in May

 

Getting gnarly in both stances. Switch ollie. Photo: KYLE SEIDLER

 

You grew up in the Midwest. But between Antioch, Illinois and Long Beach, Oceanside where would you say your heart is at? What’s the retirement pad?

My heart’s in the Midwest baby! I always tell myself and other people that I just want to move back to Illinois eventually. It’s nice out there, it’s a little slower paced.

Do you watch That 70s Show? When I looked at Antioch on the map it made me think of it because it’s set right next door in Wisconsin

Yeah, I’ve seen it, I live right on the border with Wisconsin. There ain’t no basements out here in California.

What was the basement scene growing up?

Yeah, we had a basement, but it was really for if there was a tornado or some shit, some weather hazard. You ever seen Evil Dead?

Ah no, I just can’t watch horror films.

Well I would compare our basement to one in one of those films. Scary, you don’t go down there unless you have to.

Is there a skill you learned in the Midwest you could see pursuing at some point in life? That FOCUS part seemed like you have inherited, or been around, some serious dad skills. Making boats and stuff…

Ah man, I wish I’d built a boat before. I’ve learned some skills for sure off my pops. I wouldn’t even mind going back and helping him with some work. He runs storage businesses and he runs a bait shop too.

Do you have a catch photo on the bait shop wall?

No, I don’t think I do

Proudest fishing moment?

Anytime I get to go out there with my dad you know. It’s always a good time, even if we don’t catch anything, it’s just fun being out there.

Any specific tricks learned on that Antioch curb in your backyard make it into GREEN?

I don’t think so, no specific tricks. There are some wild ones I used to do back there though. I would somehow do fakie bigspin to a blunt skidder on the very end of it and I thought it was the coolest shit ever. Then I learned fakie bluntslide big spins. I haven’t done one of those since then I don’t think.

Get it in that Deathwish part.

Yeah, maybe.

Something you’re quite well documented doing, which causes me mild anxiety when other people do it, is skating with keys on. It’s had the Matt Hensley chain wallet effect and I have seen kids doing it but on the back loop of their jeans. If I slam with a pack of chewing gum in my pocket, I can guarantee a dead leg. This is function over fashion, right?

I just have them because I need to get into my house and shit when I’m done skating. Sometimes I’ll get annoyed and just put them in my fucking pocket because I can’t stand all the jingling. It’s function over fashion though, I’ve got friends who have got straight stabbed by their keys and shit. Risky business.

Jon and Darling. Photo: KYLE SEIDLER

 

These are a few questions from our friend Pin in Cornwall. He is a skateboarding legend and the biggest ever fan of Emerica and the Baker Boys contingent. He should be put on the R & D department. What’s your daily routine?

Daily morning process is I get up around 5:30 or something, my wife goes to work at 6, so we’ll get up and make some coffee. Then she leaves for work and I’ll take my dog, Darling, over to the dog park at 6:15 and then tucker her out till about 7 or 7:30. Take her home and then go skate with the homies.

Was there anything haunting you from GREEN you have your heart on to go back for?

No, I’m just excited to work on a new project you know. Towards the end of filming for something it can get a little interesting, people start going crazy and stuff. It’s refreshing to know that I can start working on a new thing.

What’s your set-up and shoe size?

My shoe size is a 9, sample size which is pretty lucky. My board set up is an 8.625” Deathwish deck with 149 independent trucks, 54mm OJ Wheels and Rollers Bearings, Shake Junt grip and Shake Junt hardware.

Is the Deathwish board you ride custom or available?

I think it’s actually a custom one. It has the nose and tail of an original Baker shape which I believe is the B16 so it has a pointier nose and tail but since it’s 8.625” the wheelbase is 14.5” instead of 14.25”, it’s a tad longer.

They got these boards in a couple of years ago that were 8.625” but the nose and tail were a bit fatter, kind of band-aid style. I started to ride that shape and got used to it so I asked if they could make some of those but with the pointier B16 nose and tail. Few months later that shit came back and it’s fucking proper.

Shields on or off?

Bearing shields off.

Advice to a kid reading this interview and wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Just keep on keeping on! Don’t give up, keep shredding and make sure first and foremost that you’re having a good time doing it. Surround yourself with people who are motivated to get it. Get out there and get some and have fun with it.

Shop for Jon’s new Emerica shoe the “Dickson” HERE