One Hundred Percent Raw
interview by Animal Chan
intro by John Lee
In skateboarding's little world, negotiable surface area and hard feelings have become serious business of late. These days, any where skaters gather and peer pressure looms you'll find a lot of Bakerism. In little more than a year, Baker/Bootleg have handily wrested control of skateboarding's youthful imagination, in equal parts owing a penchant for punk rock exhibitionism; team members frequent tours de force to teenage wasteland; the most unlikely timing; and, not least, their heralding The Return of Personality to skateboarding. Most simply, Baker keeps it particularly raw, 100% street. Of course, the kids love it. For those not familiar with this microcosm, it's an environment that thrives on pride and regard for personal achievement, where one-upsmanship is practiced best with videocamera in tow. Those who want to be heard talk loudly with video footage. On the strength of Baker bootleg and Baker 2G, a pair of the heaviest skate videos to drop in recent years, J. Strickland and partner Andrew Reynolds have made a brand name for their skating pursuits and business endeavor. The Baker company title is taken from the moniker of friend and piss drunx major domo Ali Boulala, the reference made to one who bakes. It can be said with little dissent, these are relatively peripheral matters and concerns, all of which are dwarfed by Bakerıs feats of undeniable skateboarding. Despite J. Stricksı gangsta-gangsta rep ("That fool would get beat down if he came to the spots") and his ruggedly comic lexicon ("baraka," "fool," "hijinx"), Strickland is actually a soft-spoken indie ceo-type, who maintains a sense of humor and seems only mildly annoyed, even when dispensing with the unpleasantries and dollahs involved with retrieving his Lexus IS 300 from city impound. He seems eager to get on the road, rolling, on route to the next fat one and the Kronick interview.
KRONICK: Watching this vid, is it safe to assume that you do all the editing of the Baker vids?
J: I just sit with the skaters and theyıll be like, "I want this trick, and I want it in this order." I let them pick what they want slo-moıd and what music they want. I just help them put it together, that way theyıre more psyched. Theyıre like, "Yeah, I picked all my tricks and shit!" Cause some fools tell their skaters like, "Oh, you canıt use this trick. Or you should use this trick." I just let my fools use whatever they want.
KRONICK: Thatıs what Iım sayinı. You totally flipped the skate industry up-side the head with the way youıre doing your videos. I noticed that a lot of the tricks arenıt always on beat and you donıt use any video after effects. Just ill raw footy. Do you care to comment on that?
J: Yeah. Just cause we make it like that. Itıs like I just made this shit in my room with the skaters and didnıt have nobody help me. So me and the skaters were like weıre gonna make a video. So it was like... fuck it, some of it worked, some of it didnıt. But the skaters were happy, and that was the only thing that counted.
KRONICK: What does the word loyalty mean to you in the skate game 2G2?
J: Different kids are just down with themselves. They got to be down with themselves before they can be down with our shit. Kids that have it as good as we do; thereıs a lot of sacrifices that people make. You take the good with the bad. Like some of these other companies, thereıs no loyalty involved. Theyıre just a kid on a team. With us itıs like big time pros took pay cuts to start our company. I mean, that shit alone is worth it. But thereıs a lot of kids at skate companies that are supposed to be your homies thatıll stab you in your back. So be carefull dude.
KRONICK: On one of your shirts you make, it reads: wassup haters? What do you do about the haters?
J: This kid Shane Heyl came up with that. Itıs like how all the kids hate, and you see people front like they donıt hate on you. Theyıre always on some dumb shit. When you see them, itıs like, "whatıs up?" So basically itıs like, "Whatıs up haters?" Itıs like we know youıre out there. It basically means that we donıt even care. Because kids hate so bad. Itıs like the more they hate the better it makes us, kinda. People lose sleep and we donıt even know whatıs going on. Theyıre off hatinı around, and weıre just trying to have fun and skate and shit. Itıs just skating.
KRONICK: So the other day Meshack called you and addressed you as Suge White. Thatıs what we fondly refer to you as at the Zine.
J: Yeah, but thatıs stupid. Itıs cool and all, but the real Suge Knight would kill me. Suge White... thatıs a good one.
KRONICK: So what ever happened to Coung and Tung, the guys from the first Baker vid?
J: Theyıre just little pieces of shit now. Naw, theyıre just my little homies from Daygo (San Diego) that kill it. Theyıre dumb. They could of probably been on Baker right now, but theyıre just stupid kids. Theyıre too thugged-out to be skaters. But theyıre some funny kids though.
KRONICK: Do you think Iıve ever actually seen a real PD logo, or are all of them crazed kids hitting it up?
J: We hit it up. Drewıs done some serious damage on [undisclosed location] blasted a huge PD Up The Drunx. And Dustin hits it up. But for the most part 90 percent of the shit you see is fake fan shit. Itıs cool though. The little fans are all psyched on it. Those kids are stupid that all copy Drew, but theyıre usually cool. Theyıre just skate fans that are really into it. But theyıre kinda out of it... definitely. Just the ones that take it too far, they make it like fuck. Just fans taking it too far. Dudes fanning out on skater dudes. I just wish skating had real skate broads. Like some real fans, like rappers have. We get some bitch with some Etnies and big olı cargos, know what I mean?
KRONICK: Are you responsible for all the marketing and the ads for Baker and Bootleg?
J: Yeah, but with a lot of help from the skaters and shit. Greco probably helps out the most for a lot of the ideas and stuff. Basically weıll just come with like a photo or maybe something funny then Iıll come with it, or Jim will do something. Itıs like boom. We got all these new am ads coming out soon that are clowning surfing. Like how the surf companies are trying to buy into skating now because itıs big. So now itıs a bunch of different people trying to steal our skaters and skaters leaving us. So itıs kinda like planning our ads. What do we have this month? Blah blah blah, just freesstyle it.
KRONICK: So is that how the company got developed?
J: I mean thereıs a big plan and all, but then itıs like keeping it and making it such a plan that it goes with the flow of skating because it changes all the time. Everyday thereıs a new Joey-Amateur-no-sponsor guy thatıs better then half the pros. You canıt have a big long plan, youıll just fuck yourself. For our ams, weıre like, weıll turn em pro when theyıre like 19 or 20. Like how Jim and all of them who went through years of being am and getting paid nothing. And now all these big surfing companies and other companies make it to where theyıre paying kids so much money that, fuck, you got kids that are 15 saying that they gotta turn pro. Itıs crazy.
KRONICK: So your ams are pretty down for you?
J: Yeah, well there was this little hijinx with Terry Kennedy quitting. It was cool because it put all of them (the ams) in check, like do it now or donıt do it at all. Which is cool because theyıre all psyched now. Everybody knows he donıt skate as good as the rest of the kids on the team, so when he left it was like... cool. Alright, cool. He wants to make money, he doesnıt care about being a Drew (Reynolds), a Jim (Greco), or a (Dustin) Dollin type of skater. Heıs just like, I want money. He donıt see you can get money and still get the respect. Itıs cool now because our ams got their feet planted. But you never know, shit gets crazy. Fools been on my fools like crazy.
KRONICK: Loyalty gets diluted in this game when thereıs so much money involved.
J: Itıs funny because when we started our company it wasnıt like we went out and stole other peoples amateurs. I went out and got little scrubby dudes and made them into big amateurs. We got this new kid weıre gonna put on Baker. Heıs just a rugged-ass amateur kid that just doesnıt give a fuck. And heıs down with Drew and everybody. Heıs just psyched, heıs never really ever had a real board sponsor. Yup, our new little secret amateur, hahaha. And itıs cool because we didnıt have to go out and steal somebodyıs amateur. Same thing with (Anthony) Mosely on Bootleg. He was that real hot dude, and everybody was coming at him. So we came at him and he decided to just go through torture and have all these people have his back instead of just some dude at a company that just works there. He has me, Drew, Eric (Ellington), and some other dudes torturing him, but you know itıs all good. And it just makes him tougher, so cool.
KRONICK: He got jumped in basically.
J: No, but it is kinda. With us we donıt pay our amateur kids. Itıs like you either want to do this or you donıt. Same with our pros. A lot of pros get paid higher minimums than our pros, but it doesnıt matter because when it come to board sales itıs just like BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Weıve only been in business a year, and fools are just (shrugs his shoulders). Iım not worried about it at all. Thereıs people that have been in business for like 10 years, and weıre just crushinı them. Now itıs just us trying to get our shit together as a business.
KRONICK: Your videos basically put you guys on.
J: Yeah, thatıs how you do it man. Itıs what the kids want. Magazines are boring. Kids donıt stay on top of every skater. They just get a couple here and there and keep up. These are like TV generation kids. They either play video games or sit in front of the TV watching. It might as well be a skate video, weıre brainwashinı them.
KRONICK: Did you do all the beats for the last Baker tour vid?
J: Yeah, most of them. Almost all of them. Theyıre just bugged-out beats. That way we donıt get in trouble when we sell the tapes. But we got some shit comminı out dude (nodding to himself with approval). Nothing I can speak on now.